Central Michigan University was recently ranked the third-highest authorizer of public schools based on performance in the state.
CMU is the authorizer for 59 charter schools and earned the third-place ranking as a result of above average school performance levels, only after Grand Valley State University and Lake Superior State University, according to the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Education.
Performance levels are determined by factors such as student academic standing, student enrollment and various goals outlined in the charter contract.
“One of the key strategies impacting our performance is that, in addition to taking the MEAP tests, CMU has been a pioneer in the use of state-of-the-art computer adaptive testing in the fall and spring to measure both proficiency and individual student growth,” said Cindy Schumacher, Executive Director of The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at CMU.
A charter school, also known as a public school academy, is a state‐supported public school, which operates under a charter contract. This contract, issued by the authorizer, includes specific performance expectations, as well as compliance with all applicable state and federal laws that govern public education.
Charter schools are tuition-free and must accept every student who applies, up to their enrollment capacity.
There are about 280 charter public schools statewide with 120,000 students enrolled. The schools CMU authorizes enroll roughly 30,000 students – about 25 percent of all charter school students.
“We’re looking for groups with a promising vision, a quality educational program, a sound business plan and the ability to implement a program that will provide Michigan students with the excellent education options they deserve,” Schumacher said.
As an authorizer, CMU’s role is to ensure its charter schools adhere to the charter contract. Authorizers also appoint volunteer board members, who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the charter school.
“While it is important to note that authorizers don’t operate schools, CMU serves as a partner and as a resource, assisting our schools to reach their academic, financial and operational goals,” Schumacher said via email.
According to the Detroit Free Press, charter schools authorized by Detroit Public Schools have the worst performance records in the state. Other poorly ranked authorizers include Eastern Michigan University, Northern Michigan University, Ferris State University, Bay Mills Community College and Saginaw Valley State University.
Schumacher said CMU has plans to authorize five to seven more charter schools and will hold those schools to the same standards as the other ones.
“In the future, CMU plans to continue to implement and enhance its computer testing in charter schools,” Schumacher said. “CMU will also continue publishing annual performance reports that provide clear, concise and consistent academic, fiscal and operational assessments to improve school performance.”