|For parents, charters are about choice|
By: Bridge...News and analysis from The Center fo
|March 14, 2012|
upon a time in public education, when all schools were neighborhood
schools and attendance was a matter of which side of the boundary lines
you lived on, families like Marilyn Williams’ would have been rare
The mother of two teenage daughters just two years apart, Williams’ daughters don’t just attend different classes, but entirely different campuses. Her eldest, also named Marilyn, goes to the Henry Ford Academy School for Creative Studies in the New Center neighborhood of Detroit, where she’s a junior. Micah, a freshman, attends Cass Technical High School, not quite three miles away in Midtown. Williams sees it as a way for both of her girls to get the education that suits them best.
The Henry Ford Academy is a charter school, with “focus on innovation and creativity,” according to its website. Cass Tech is one of Detroit’s selective high schools, and is the alma mater of many of Detroit’s leadership class. The former suits Marilyn, a non-traditional learner who thrives in a setting with small class sizes and a teaching method her mother describes as creative. Micah is more suited to Cass’ demanding curriculum and standards. And if they both stay in those schools through graduation, the fact they’ll have different yearbooks and alumni networks doesn’t bother their mother at all. She appreciates the choice.
When charter schools were first opened in Michigan in the early 1990s, the thinking was that the schools would be innovators; their contract, or charter, with the colleges or school districts that oversaw them would push them to explore new educational strategies, sharing the best results with more traditional schools. Over time, however, as the schools have failed to outperform other public schools, the arguments for them have emphasized the importance of choice, period.
And many parents would agree. Tonya Crain is the mother of 17-year-old Brandon and 9-year-old Kiera, both of whom attend University Preparatory Academy, the charters were a way to get them out of Highland Park’s public schools, which have been plagued by steeply falling enrollment and, more recently, an emergency financial manager.
Crain says she likes the smaller class sizes and increased emphasis on academics, but also the peace of mind she gets from the school’s emphasis on security and safety. University Prep emphasizes parental involvement and communication, which she appreciates. Her son wasn’t happy about relocating after he’d already started high school, but he found friends and was able to adapt.
“He was resentful at first, but his grades have improved,” she said. He’s investigating community college in Macomb County, where she now lives, and has settled into academics. But Kiera had to adjust, too, and was put in remedial classes until she can catch up with her classmates.
To Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, the experiences of these parents demonstrate the charter-school experiment is working exactly the way it was intended to.
“We do per-pupil funding in Michigan, and Proposal A allows choice,” he said. “That decision was made with Proposal A. Either we think those things are good or we don’t. … These are public schools, so how do public schools hurt public education?”
The choice offered by the state’s public schools is wide, running from demanding traditional academies that require students to test into their grade levels, to those with a different philosophy altogether. Les Lance, a Farmington parent, chose Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse of Detroit, a social-studies immersion school that emphasizes introspection, curiosity and “the ability to recognize and initiate a balance between tradition and new ideas,” according to the school’s website.
For Lance, it fit his first-grader, Cianna, whom he describes as having a great sense of humor and vibrant personality. And it fit him and his wife.
“We like the environment,” he said. “They were organized. The leadership seems to have everything in place, with good parent communication.” He also talked to other parents, noting that “word of mouth is a very powerful thing” when it comes to choosing charters.
“I don’t think anyone would tell you they’re not in favor of schools of choice,” Lance said. “We’re asked to do more (as parents), but I’m already involved. I recognize that charters have the same challenges as public schools. So much depends on leadership.”
Staff Writer Nancy Nall Derringer has been a writer, editor and teacher in Metro Detroit for seven years, and was a co-founder and editor of GrossePointeToday.com, an early experiment in hyperlocal journalism. Before that, she worked for 20 years in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she won numerous state and national awards for her work as a columnist for The News-Sentinel.
A Lansing charter school is in danger of closing, but charter advocates say it's not an indictment of the charter model
'Blended learning' charter high school impresses one Grand Rapids lawmaker, another raises concerns
Grand Valley State University expands eastward with new Detroit education, business center
Detroit business leaders support 'skunk works'-like groups in Michigan government
For-Profit Experiment Plays Out in Two Mich. Districts
Politics Alive and Well in Public Schools
MI school district to destroy building rather than sell to charter group
School Marketing is A-OK
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says lower-cost schools team 'not an official project'
'Skunk works' scuttled? Michigan schools chief Mike Flanagan to lead technology discussion
Don't Trust Ed-Trust on Charter Schools Group seeks ed reform, but misses mark on charters
Some charter schools focus on quality. Others focus on marketing. Guess which ones are winning.
Senator Warren Announces Reintroduction of Ban on For-Profit Schools
Covenant House Michigan buying Campau Park Elementary for $400,000
New strategies needed to improve Michigan charter schools, group says WITH VIDEO
Michigan's public education system getting schooled by other states
Education reform group forges voucher-like plan for Michigan
Report outlines six steps needed to bring Michigan schools in line with rest of the country
Eastern Michigan University issues charters for three schools
Over 100 Michigan charter schools to be represented at job fair at Novi showplace
Some Michigan schools could get $134 per kid boost under budget plan
Ann Arbor school board to vote Wednesday on 5-hour time limits
Guest column: Charter schools showing innovation needed to 'dig state out of educational hole'
Northern Michigan Arts: Northwest Academy Band Heads To DC
Michigan Charter School Conference
Albion Public Schools officials talk charter schools as way to fix $1 million budget deficit in 2013-14
Michigan may drop foreign language rule for schools
Marvin Sapp’s performance arts charter school slated to grow this fall; adding grades pre-K to 5th
Michigan House OKs failing school oversight bill
New charter schools find niches
Lansing School District comes through for Shabazz: 'This is family'
New Charter School in Ferndale Hosts Meeting Tonight
Marvin Sapp's performance arts charter school slated to grow this fall; adding grades pre-K to 5th
Former charter school director gets probation for lying about student enrollment
Michigan school districts feel pinch as deficits grow
More on Authorizer Accountability in Michigan
Group plans charter school serving elite athletes
GILBERT: Charter school movement firing back at critics
Character Education Seen as Student-Achievement Tool
Study: For-profit charter schools perform at or above non-profit peers
Straight cash: Some Michigan school admins see big bucks