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CONNECT [spring 2016 edition]



SETTING the STANDARD INNOVATION | CHOICE | EXCELLENCE Serving 62 schools and more than 30,000 students throughout Michigan.




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Letter From the President



We’re taking time in this issue of Charter Connect to look back on the incredible 22-year history of charter schools in Michigan, and as I reflect on all that’s happened, many stories come to mind. Here’s one of them.

And that’s by design. From the beginning, Michigan’s school founders and authorizers recognized that if charter schools were going to make a difference, they needed to be located in areas where the status quo was failing – urban areas where poverty and despair were denying students their civil right to a quality education.

Back in 1997, when the movement was still in its infancy, Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks submitted a proposal to open a charter school in Detroit. The school was going to be called the “Rosa and Raymond Parks Academy for Self Development,” and in the official proposal for the school, it said, “The principles are based on their life experiences of pride, dignity and courage.”

From the beginning, Michigan’s charter school community knew that we had to tackle the areas that had been forgotten and neglected. That meant putting schools in neighborhoods and communities where ninth-graders were reading at a third-grade level; where less than half the adults could read a book.

“We will include not only the youngsters, but the parents and the adults, as well,” Rosa Parks told a reporter at the time. “I am really looking forward to the many good things to be done with our youth, because as you know, we have to be very careful with our young people.” Unfortunately, the Rosa and Raymond Parks Academy for Self Development never came to be. But I think this story is an insightful one, because it illustrates what I feel the charter school movement in Michigan is all about. Rosa Parks – considered the “First Lady of Civil Rights” – recognized that education is indeed a civil right. She saw that children in Detroit were being denied that right, and like so many before and after her, she stepped up to try and make a difference. As we take time in this issue to celebrate and remember our past, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Michigan’s charter schools have been the pioneers in this education civil rights movement. While there are certainly charter schools in every pocket of the state, the majority of them are located in areas where good schools are hard to find.

This work was going to be difficult – incredibly difficult – but then again, that was the point. As President John F. Kennedy said when he proposed sending a man to the moon: “We choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” That perfectly describes the work you’ve done as a charter school community. You have chosen to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Building a successful school in a poverty-ridden community is hard. But we do it today – and we’ve been doing it for 22 years – because we recognize that education is a civil right. A kid growing up in the toughest city in Michigan, not knowing where his next meal is coming from, deserves a great education the same as a kid growing up in a mansion. Yes, education is a civil right. Rosa Parks recognized that. And because you’re a charter school educator, you recognize that, too. So pat yourself on the back for being willing to do the tough stuff. Then get to work making sure that tomorrow is even better than today.



CONNECT brought to you by MAPSA

meet the team vp of operations and strategy accounting coordinator parent & community outreach coordinator director of marketing and program design director of research and grants membership coordinator office assistant vp of communications president director of membership services event specialist director of instructional systems design vp of government and legal affairs administrator

angi beland angie boldrey amy bytof becky carlton julie durham candace embry karen kundrat buddy moorehouse dan quisenberry heather risner susan stevens leah theriault alicia urbain sara vanderbilt

mapsa board member treasurer secretary immediate past chair member member member chair member vice chair-elect member

ralph bland - new paradigm for education john cleary - the thompson educational foundation don cooper - national charter schools institute greg handel - detroit regional chamber mohamad issa - global educational excellence jennifer jarosz- charlton heston academy greg mcneilly - windquest group david seitz - apple computer, inc. tiffany taylor - teach for america samuel buzz thomas - thomas consulting group tim wood - gvsu charter schools office

ad index Center for Charter Schools CMU General Agency Grand Valley State University CS Partners Francis Young International Ele’s Place CMU Online Degrees Detroit Institute for Children Flagstar Bank Thrun Law Firm, P.C. e-pluno Saunders, Winter, McNeil, PLLC Innovators In Education

Inside Front Cover pg. 8 pg.9 pg. 12 pg. 12 pg. 21 pg. 21 pg. 21 pg. 27 pg. 27 pg. 28 pg. 28 Back Cover


Charter School Advocacy Day By Buddy Moorehouse

13 Two Decades of Progress: Celebrating Michigan’s Charter School Journey By Buddy Moorehouse

20 Getting Back to Our Roots By Angela Romanowski

Hire, Retain And Place Rockstars To Best Fit Your Program By Raheshri Ghandi Bhatia




Dear Experts Summer Learning Loss MAPSA Spotlight Teaching in Charters is 1st Choice Say What!? What is the true definition of “Professional Development”? Feedback in Action Helping build your brand through the charter vision Connection Corner A-F Accountability

7 8 9 22 23


Leverage Your Graduation Stories for Great PR By Buddy Moorehouse



Choosy Parents Choose Charters By Angi Beland




Member Recognition Sending a huge thank you to our Advocacy Day participants


Imagine If... Student’s mastery set the pace and not how old they are



DEAR EXPERTS Ever wonder what the secret sauce is in high-performing schools? Here you can submit a question, or answer, to your peers to help everyone achieve success!

Q A WINNER! Congrats to expert Sh awn Leonard for winning the drawing for providing an answer to last issue’s question!

Q: Most students can lose up to two months of grade-level equivalency in math and reading during the summer months. How can my school prevent summer learning loss for my students? Research supports that all students experience learning losses when they are not engaged in educational activities during the summer. However, there are effective strategies that can reduce/minimize summer learning loss. Remote summer learning provides activities for students outside or away from the school, typically completed at home, which can be developed as a list of resources for students to utilize throughout the summer, including technology programs, community programs, and school developed activities focused on skill practice and development. Onsite summer learning activities are provided at the school by selected educators who develop activities that include a balance of direct instruction, hands-on learning, and small group instruction, for a specified length of time during the summer. The more students are engaged in these activities, the likelihood of them experiencing summer learning loss is reduced. In both Remote and Onsite summer learning programs, it’s important to have incentives for students to be rewarded for their efforts. When students are excited about being recognized for their efforts, the engagement throughout the summer will increase. Lastly, having a balance of both programs to ensure that the majority or all of your students have access to summer learning activities is vital for the academic growth of your school. Shawn Leonard, Director of School Quality/School Leadership Manager National Heritage Academies

Submit your answers! Answers will be featured in the Fall 2016 issue.

Q: What qualities should school leadership, especially in the future, possess? Email with your 100word answer to the above question for the chance to be featured in an upcoming edition and win a gift card!


MAPSA SPOTLIGHT While the path to solving the teacher crisis is long and slow, our team is committed to making charters a first choice for a teaching career. In a recent survey conducted in a cohort of our member schools, including 111 teachers, our cohort exceeded national norms in each of the eight research-based crucial dimensions for achieving organizational success. With a focus on aspects such as talent and communication systems, high expectations and the existence of a culture embracing a growth mindset, this data confirms what we have known. Teaching in a charter school is an opportunity to make real change. Our opportunity to make real change in this crisis is to focus on strengthening the charter brand and taking every chance, large or small, to tout it.

HERE ARE JUST A FEW HIGHLIGHTS SO FAR THIS YEAR: 2,132. The number of teachers that made a choice to

apply to a charter school in the past 6 months through MAPSA’s Open Hire job board. 575. The number of charter school Teacher of the Year

nominations received from parents and community members throughout the state. 120. The number of minutes of a new documentary

released by MAPSA illustrating the day in the life of teaching as told by teachers in charter schools. 50. The number of Central Michigan University teacher

prep candidates MAPSA engaged at a teacher fair earlier this year. We like to call them future charter school teachers of the year!

Working for you. Working with you.

Not using Open Hire yet to post your job vacancies? Contact to get set up today!



"We've worked with General Agency since our very first day as a school and have remained impressed by them! It feels like they are our teammates at every step of the way -- from when we bought our new school building to learning more about how to keep our premiums as low as possible! They inform us on best practices and are immediately responsive! We could not ask for anything more!" -Kyle Smitley, Detroit Achievement Academy




{pro·fes·sio·nal de·vel·op·ment} As a movement, we need to have a united voice, and that starts with a common language. How do you define these tricky questions or terms?

DEFINING {PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT} TO THE PUBLIC Professional development (PD) is perhaps most recognized in education as the means to maintaining certification. Every educator must log in the right amount of days or hours to ensure state requirements are met. But more than that, its intention is to support educators in mastering required skillsets. The requirement is focused on ensuring that every educator is prepared to address the varying needs of their students. But because there is no cookie-cutter approach to developing great educators, accomplishing this is more than just counting hours in classes. Instead, an effective PD strategy looks more like an innovative, data-driven and intentional approach to improving student performance. It involves everybody inside a school and yet it is decisively different for each individual to best fit their needs. The PD strategy for each campus is unique and adapted to the culture. It’s fluid to adjust for new challenges or opportunities discovered through data trends. The most effective strategies combine relevant workshops with integrated support structures such as PLC’s or teacher mentors. Professional development is more than just logging hours. It’s about building a culture in which all good educators can become great educators.

YOUR POTENTIAL As authorizer of more than 70 60 charter schools across the state, the Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office not only provides high quality K-12 33,000 students, but also offers Michigan teachers options for more than 32,000 a wide variety of professional development opportunities. Choose from workshops emphasizing literacy instruction, data instruction, technology, classroom management, and other relevant topics to help you meet continuing education requirements and reach your full potential as a better teacher. • More More than than 40 40 different different professional professional development development topics topics totaling over 200 workshops • Workshops offered in Grand Rapids and Detroit • State Workshops offered in GrandClock Rapids and (SCECH) Detroit available Continuing Education Hours • at State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECH) available almost every workshop at almost every workshop See the complete schedule and register at Seecall schedule and 331-2240. register at or call (616) 331-2240. or us at (616)



Buddy Moorehouse VP of Communications MAPSA What happens when 500 charter school parents, teachers, administrators and advocates come to the State Capitol? They make a difference. That was the case in early December, when hundreds of charter school supporters from all corners of Michigan came to Lansing for Charter School Advocacy Day, organized and sponsored by MAPSA. “Charter schools have been the focus of so much attention lately in Lansing, so we felt that Lansing needed to hear directly from charter school parents,” said MAPSA President Dan Quisenberry. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that you don’t mess with a parent’s right to choose what’s best for their child. That’s why hundreds of people came to Lansing; to make their voices heard. 10


“And it worked,” Quisenberry said. “There were some very harmful proposals being considered by Lansing, and thanks to the parents and others who came to the Capitol and made their voices heard. This is exactly the way that advocacy is supposed to work.” Charter School Advocacy Day came as the discussion heated up regarding several big education-related issues – particularly the education landscape in Detroit. Among the proposals being discussed for Detroit were two items that would have been devastating to charter schools and parental choice: • The formation of a Detroit Education Commission, which would have a single political appointee in charge of many decisions, such as which schools would open and which ones would close and essentially picking who gets a choice and who doesn’t. • The elimination of all but a single authorizer in Detroit. The establishment of a gatekeeper creates a significant likelihood of politically driven decisions,


instead of decisions focused on parents, neighborhoods or student success. Charter school parents understood that such proposals would be extremely harmful to their ability to choose the right school for their child. MAPSA stood by their belief that these are decisions parents should be making, not a politician. Charter school parents and other supporters came by the busload and carload from all parts of Michigan, including Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Benton Harbor, Ann Arbor, Pontiac, Port Huron and Northern Michigan – even the Upper Peninsula. They spent the day meeting with legislators, sitting in on sessions of the House and Senate, and making their voices heard. “It was an overwhelming display of support by charter school parents,” Quisenberry said. “We were blown away by how many parents took the day off to come to Lansing to tell their stories. These are parents who have seen the difference

“The problem is that they aren’t looking at our children as the future; they’re looking at our children as dollars and cents. I don’t want my child to be a line item in the budget. The people in Lansing needed to hear from parents. These decisions they’re making aren’t affecting them. They’re affecting us. And for anyone to tell me I don’t have a choice of where I send my daughter to school, I’m not going to stand for that. That’s why I came to Lansing.” Roosevelt Bell Detroit Service Learning Academy

a charter school has made in their child’s life, and they’re desperate to protect the right they had to choose that school. Results matter, and these parents have

seen the results in their own children.” In addition to the legislative visits, the day also included a performance in the Capitol rotunda by two charter school groups – the choirs from Cornerstone Health and Technology High School in Detroit and Light of the World Academy in Pinckney. The parents received support from many of the legislators they met with, including Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Township), who spoke to a couple hundred attendees over lunch. “While charter schools are often maligned by some in politics and some in the media, I want you to know that you’ve got a large number of supporters here in the Michigan Legislature, both in the House and Senate, who are going to do whatever they can to protect your choices as parents,” Kelly said. “Your system works. We’re going to do everything we can to protect that.” In mid-January, just a few weeks after the parents came to Lansing, Sen. Geoff Hansen (R-Hart) introduced legislation to

reform the education system in Detroit. While the bills did tackle the tough financial situation facing the Detroit Public Schools, they didn’t include the proposals that would have harmed charter schools in the city. “This is why it’s important for parents and other advocates to speak out,” Quisenberry said. “It works.” A Behind the Scenes Look at Advocacy Day A picture is truly worth a thousand words, and in this case, it represents myriad details that were working behind the scenes to get the day off without a hitch? What did it really take to pull this event off? Without our members believing in the success of charter schools and the ability to engage parents within your schools, this kind of impact is just simply not possible. We appreciate the support and hope that the experience of those parents who attended solidified their choices for charter education. We are confident that each individual who participated left >> 11

“As a charter school parent, I appreciated the opportunity to have my voice heard. It was great seeing hundreds of other charter school parents in Lansing sharing the same message - that charter schools are making a difference in our child’s life. We made our voices heard. As parents, we need to have a choice in selecting the right school for our child, and that’s the message we delivered.” Susie Lang, Howell (parent of 3 charter students) with a renewed sense of appreciation for the quality education you deliver each day, despite the opposition you face and disparities that exist in funding. In one day, 73 legislators spent time in one-on-one meetings with charter school advocates and more than that spent time sifting through thousands of emails that were also generated by advocates. Getting on a legislator’s agenda isn’t easy, and some meetings didn’t happen, but to have this kind of engagement with both supporters and opponents shows that the charter brand is a brand to be reckoned with. We must continue to be intentional about dialogue and become known for our solutions and success. Just as a picture can go a long way, so too can just a few individuals with real-life examples touting the same message.

It took a group of dedicated volunteers to coordinate 500 participants to have a fully engaged day at the Capitol. We worked hard to recruit individuals that exhibit a passion for charter schools and that truly believe that charters make a difference in the lives of students and their families. Recipe for a Perfect Advocacy Day • 25+ Volunteers • 500 Advocates • 73 Legislators • 10 Buses • 1200 Emails • Armloads of blue tshirts • 3 Lunch presentations with legislators

As if the sunshine didn’t warm you up enough, the passion and connections among participants was sure to warm your heart. It was absolutely inspiring to witness the conversations, the frustration and the hope that every parent had.

Let’s now talk about the PERFECT day we had!

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As an educator, you hold that power. The power to create the PERFECT day every day for the students you serve. We applaud you, as we know there is always more to the story! •

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CELEBRATING MICHIGAN’S CHARTER SCHOOL JOURNEY Buddy Moorehouse VP of Communications MAPSA To figure out where you’re going, it helps to know where you’ve been. For Michigan’s charter schools, it’s been a 22-year journey of innovation, choice and achievement – and one that’s included plenty of ups and downs. Here’s where we are now: As the 201516 school year comes to a close, there are 300 charter schools in Michigan, educating more than 150,000 students – about 10 percent of the state’s schoolage population. There are about 10,000 charter school teachers in Michigan, and more than 1,500 administrators.

Particularly in the state’s urban centers, charter schools have become extremely popular. More than 50 percent of students in Detroit attend a charter school – the second-highest percentage in the country. There is also a high percentage in Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Traverse City, Ann Arbor and several other cities in Michigan. From the western reaches of the Upper Peninsula to the Ohio border, charter school students in Michigan are finding success and opportunity. Parents are hopeful and thankful for the opportunity to choose the best fit for their child. But how did we get here?

In 1993, the educational landscape in Michigan looked standard. Schools and classes were run pretty much as they had been for the past 30 or 40 years. Each school looked similar to the next, and students went where they were assigned. Choosing a school outside your district meant a move or, as some desperate parents navigated the system, a forged home address. Indeed, parents had few real choices among schools that, for the most part, did things all the same way. In our neighboring state across Lake Superior, educators were cooking up something in their lab. Minnesota leaders >> 13

contemplated the benefits to education that freedom from bureaucracy would allow. Soon, the charter school movement was born. Schools began to look a little less like what we were used to and more like laboratories of innovation. We quickly imported the concept to Michigan. In October of 1993, Gov. John Engler spoke to a joint session of the Michigan Legislature, outlining the education reforms he felt the state needed to move us forward. Gov. Engler urged the Legislature to adopt a law that would allow the creation of a new entity, called public school academies. They would still be public schools in every way, but the community members and educators who formed them would have the freedom to innovate in a way that would allow for greater achievement and accountability. Sen. Dick Posthumus introduced charter legislation in late 1993, it was subsequently passed by the Legislature, and on Jan. 14, 1994, Gov. Engler signed it into law. Michigan had become a charter school state. In March of 1994, Michigan’s voters did something equally historic. They passed Proposal A, which radically changed the way schools in Michigan would be funded. And along with the new charter schools Michigan was seeing, the state would also adopt a schools-ofchoice law a couple years later, in 1996. The law would allow any district in the state to open its doors to any student in the state. It wasn’t mandated, but if the Howell Public Schools district wanted to start allowing students from Brighton and Milford to attend, they could. People around the country began to take notice. In late 1994, Time Magazine covered Michigan charter schools and called out the “New Hope for Public Schools.” Author Claudia Wallis’ story from Oct. 31, 1994, concluded with this paragraph:

yet born, they wrote, but they wanted to reserve a kindergarten spot for the year 2000.” Things looked promising, schools could and would begin to look differently. As can be expected, the establishment quivered. On Nov. 1, 1994, a group of charter school opponents, led by the Michigan Education Association (MEA), filed suit in Ingham County Circuit Court, challenging the constitutionality of charter schools. A number of lawsuits and bills followed (detailed in our timeline), launching a constant assault on the rights of charter schools to exist and expand, including a 2001 lawsuit challenging Bay Mills Community College’s right to authorize schools statewide. In a report commissioned by Central Michigan University, the Bay Mills president outlined the importance of the charter movement for his college, solidifying what would become a focus of many charter schools around the state: “Our community has always placed a high value on education, both to help future generations advance
but also as a way for us to pass down our culture and heritage from one generation to the next,” said Mickey Parish, President of Bay Mills Community College. “Our college exists to serve a historically underserved population, and to help them improve their lives. Chartering K-12 schools is an extension of this mission, and we are proud that the schools we charter provide urban, minority, and poor students throughout Michigan with educational opportunities they would not otherwise have.” Early on, the charter school world was a smorgasbord of individual schools and authorizers all over the state. There was nothing to unify the charter school community – to bring them all over one umbrella and say, “We’re all in this together.” There was a need for such an organization, for a group who would unite charters, advocate for their wellbeing and autonomy, support them in their work, and connect them to other educators and reformers.

“Parents want better schools now. And in spite of the obstacles, they are organizing charter schools in droves and flocking to what few exist. Principal David Lehman of West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science, near Grand Rapids, has a sheaf of applications several Enter MAPSA. Throughout its two inches thick for the year 1997, though his decades, MAPSA has been a strong school has no track record. This summer advocate for the rights of charter schools, he got a letter from Amy and Ron Larva giving voice to the schools, parents, of Grand Rapids. Their child was not SPRING 2016 14 CHARTER CONNECT

teachers and supporters. Indeed, the organization has scored some stunning legislative victories – none bigger than in 2011, when MAPSA led the fight to lift the cap on university-authorized schools. It had become a fiercely political debate, with Democrats and teachers union backers opposing charter schools, while Republicans and most business leaders were in favor of them. The political lines which had been drawn in the state stood in stark contrast to what was happening nationally, where every president during the charter school era (Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and Republican George W. Bush) has been a staunch supporter of charter schools. MAPSA advocated for the thousands of students on wait lists throughout the state that were waiting to win the school’s lottery just to get their child in the right school. And because of the cap, some charter schools had wait lists of 200, 500 even 2,000 students. One school in Ann Arbor had 500 applicants for two openings. Testifying before the Senate Education Committee in 2011, MAPSA President Dan Quisenberry drove home the problem: “I’m holding a lottery ticket here, and I have a better chance of winning this than the parent at that school in Ann Arbor has of winning that lottery. And you shouldn’t have to win a lottery to get your child in the right school.” After three months of testimony – and more opposition by the MEA and the other defenders of the status quo – the cap-lift legislation made it through the House and Senate. Gov. Rick Snyder signed it into law in December of 2011. Michigan’s charter school law had just taken a huge step forward. And despite dire warnings by some opponents that lifting the charter cap would result in the “wild, wild west” in terms of new schools, the opposite has happened. New school growth has actually slowed to a crawl, to the point where only seven schools opened statewide in 2015. Evidence shows the authorizers are continuing to only grant charters to the very best applicants.

As the years marched on, Michigan’s charter school community continues to grow – and change lives for the better. In 1997, Michigan topped 100 charter schools for the first time. In 2004, the state saw 200 charter schools for the first time. And in 2015, we hit 300 schools So as we begin the slow, appropriate march to 400 charter schools, the focus continues to be on quality – just like it was when the first eight schools opened in 1994. As promising schools continue to open, though, troubled schools have begun to close. Since 1996, when the first school was closed by its authorizer, 108 charter schools have closed in Michigan, mostly for failing to meet academic or financial standards. Michigan’s closure rate is one of the strongest in the country. Authorizers continue to provide support to struggling schools and close those that aren’t making strides toward improvement. Our state policy provides for strong authorizer oversight, and we see that in the quality of schools that continue to operate and flourish. Just recently, Michigan was ranked among the top three states in the nation in the “Health of the Charter School Movement” report published by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

MAPSA has been a supportive partner all along the way. In years past, MAPSA worked with charter planning groups, helping them as they navigated the chartering process. MAPSA has successfully advocated for the rights of schools to purchase and use public facilities, despite attempts by traditional districts to block access. Thousands have gathered at MAPSA conferences and professional development opportunities over the years, connecting isolated charter school leaders and teachers and creating a community of like-minded education reformers and entrepreneurs. And throughout the past two decades, MAPSA has been a staunch advocate for equitable funding for all students in every school. Because the reality is that charter schools are expected to do more with less, and MAPSA has led the charge to level the playing field. Still, despite the legislative and budgetary hurdles charters regularly face, there were also plenty of academic and anecdotal success stories that let proponents know charters are on the right track. Two that are worth looking at: In 2009, Canton Charter Academy ended up the state’s the top-performing school on the Michigan Educational Assessment

Program (MEAP) test - the first time a charter school earned that distinction. In 2011, Black River Public School in Holland learned that it had been named the No. 1 high school in Michigan by the Washington Post. Not just one of the best; the best. The Washington Post also ranked Black River No. 9 in the Midwest. Landmark research was also supporting the idea that charter schools were outperforming traditional public schools in Michigan. In 2013, Stanford University’s respected CREDO Institute released a report that said the average charter school student in Michigan gains an additional two months of learning every year in reading and math. In Detroit, the gains are even more dramatic: the average charter school student gains an additional three months of learning every year. So the “experiment” that Gov. Engler signed into law seems to be working. Kids are learning, parents are getting to “shop” for the right school, and achievement is on the rise. On the 20-year anniversary of the initial legislation in 2014, Gov. Engler paused to reflect on what it all meant. “We had high hopes and expectations >> 15


93 In a speech before a joint session of the Michigan Legislature on Oct. 5, Gov. John Engler proposes a number of education reforms, including the creating of charter schools.

94 On January 14, Gov. John Engler signed the charter schools legislation into law, and Michigan became the 9th state to enact a charter law. In March, Proposal A is approved by Michigan voters, radically changing how Michigan funds its public schools. Most notably, it shifts the responsibility from local funding sources to state sources, and establishes a per-pupil “foundation allowance” for every student. This financial policy shift makes it possible for school choice to occur. In September, Michigan’s first nine charter schools open their doors: Aisha Shule in Detroit, Caledonia Charter Academy in Caledonia, Casa Maria in Detroit, Horizons High School in Wyoming, Macomb Academy in Clinton Township, New Branches School in Grand Rapids, Northlane Math and Science Academy in Freeland, West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science in Grand Rapids and Windover High School in Midland. On October 31, in a cover story entitled “New Hope for Public Schools,” Time magazine puts 7-year-old Michigan charter school student Zachary Leipham, from West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science, on its cover. In the fall, a group of charter school opponents challenge the constitutionality of the newly established charter schools law. On November 1, the Ingham County Circuit Court rules the newly enacted law unconstitutional, and the decision is appealed. This starts a three-year court battle over the constitutionality of charter schools in Michigan that won’t be settled until 1997.

96 The Michigan Association of Public School Academies is formed, giving the state’s chartered schools a united voice.

97 In March, President Bill Clinton speaks to a joint session of the Michigan Legislature, outlining his education plan, which calls for the creation of 3,000 charter schools nationally by 2002. In July, after nearly three years of litigation, the Michigan Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of Michigan’s charter school law.

In April, the Michigan Court of Appeals upholds the 1994 ruling by the Ingham County Circuit Court that charter schools are unconstitutional. That decision is then appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.

99 The cap on the number of state university-authorized charter schools (150) is reached.

Michigan tops 100 charter schools for the first time, with 106 schools open for the 1997-98 school year.

Michigan approves the creation of “Strict Discipline Academies,” a special designation of charter schools for court-placed and suspended students.



Bay Mills Community College, a federal tribally controlled community college in the Upper Peninsula, begins chartering schools. Michigan law says that community colleges can charter schools within their boundaries, and Bay Mills’ unique status means the entire state of Michigan is its geographic boundary. Also, schools chartered by community colleges are not subject to the cap. Charter school opponents, led by the Michigan Education Association, later file suit to challenge Bay Mills’ ability to charter schools. CHARTER CONNECT SPRING 2016


The Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers is formed.

03 The Michigan Legislature passes a law allowing state universities to charter up to 15 “Urban High School Academies” in Detroit.


Michigan tops 200 charter schools for the first time, with 216 schools open for the 2004-05 school year.

05 An Ingham County Circuit Court judge dismisses the MEA lawsuit against Bay Mills Community College. The MEA appeals the decision.

06 The Michigan Court of Appeals affirms the Ingham County decision, allowing Bay Mills Community College to continue chartering schools.

07 The number of charter school students in Michigan tops 100,000 for the first time.

09 Canton Charter Academy ends up as state’s the top-performing school on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test - the first time a charter school earned that distinction.

11 In December, the Michigan Legislature votes to lift the cap on university-authorized charter schools. Gov. Rick Snyder signs the legislation into law days later.

15 Michigan tops 300 charter schools for the first time, with an even 300 schools open for the 2015-16 school year.


when the charter school law was signed 20 years ago, and it’s gratifying to see that the dream we had on Jan. 14, 1994, has become a reality,” Engler said. “Parents deserve a quality choice when it comes to their child’s education, and charter schools have provided that choice. In the past 20 years, Michigan’s charter schools have shown that innovation and accountability will lead to improved student achievement. “We’ve come a long way in the past 20 years, but there’s still much work to be done. Every child in Michigan deserves a quality education in a quality school, and we can’t rest until we’ve reached that goal.”

high-quality education taught by highly qualified educators. Most importantly, charters are providing much-needed quality educational options in areas around the state that are experiencing a drought in excellence. The true entrepreneurs and leaders in the charter movement weren’t politicians, though their support was vital. In the fall of 1994, Michigan saw their first charter schools open. The schools below were the first to test the waters in Michigan’s charter sector and still operate today.

How are charters reaching that goal? Let’s take a look at the diversity of educational opportunity that charters afford Michigan students. Educational entrepreneurs are still reaching and achieving beyond the original intent of charter legislation. Moreover, charters are setting innovative examples of how and what to teach, catering to specific interests and learning styles of Michigan students. And charter schools, boards and operators continue to push the historical educational context by taking advantage of the autonomous allowances of charter law in Michigan to make sure they are providing a 18



• Cole Academy • Concord Academy • Macomb Academy • Nah Tah Wahsh Public School Academy • New Branches School • Walden Green Day School • West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science • Windover High School

Each of the eight original schools had its own story and its own vision. And each of them held fast to the belief that they could do something better, do something differently. Every new school since has embraced the challenge. Think about this: as a new charter school founder, board member or leader, you are wading into unchartered territory (no pun intended) where the risks couldn’t be higher. The literal futures of children are in your hands. But charter proponents continue to develop, expand and offer innovative choices to students because they know they can provide an in-demand educational product that is unmatched by our traditional school system. Students in Michigan now have access to a wide array of schools with unique focuses; aviation, engineering, performing arts, sports and entertainment, environmental science. The high-performing but under-engaged student now has the option to attend a school where she is building airplanes and earning college credits while she is still in high school, at schools like West Michigan Aviation Academy. Students can learn math and reading in a specific cultural context at Timbuktu Academy in Detroit or El Shabazz Academy in Lansing. The innovation didn’t stop with charter schools, though. Larger traditional districts now commonly

have at least a few magnet schools with a specific focus. Read that: charter schools have served as the impetus for education reforms and options on a larger scale.

hiring practices. We now have schools all over the state with a balanced, year-round calendar, a practice shown to decrease summer loss in learning.

In addition to offering specific focuses, charter schools have embraced different teaching styles and pedagogies. Here is where the real pride and innovation comes through. Charter schools have provided hope and opportunity for students in Michigan to be taught in the way that is best for them. Students now have more access to Montessori programs, project-based learning, blended learning and virtual learning opportunities. Students at Honey Creek Community School in Ann Arbor participate in school-wide project based learning initiatives, for instance. This access has advanced the learning of thousands of children who would have otherwise been lost in a system that didn’t meet their needs.

Many schools, unencumbered by union oversight, operate an extended day. Students in these schools, like DEPSA in Detroit, receive more hours of education and have access to a safe and supportive environment well beyond the hours of a traditional school day. Many schools, including 20 who participated in a MAPSA-led federal grant, are implementing innovative merit pay systems in their schools. Michigan charters have the freedom to use merit pay to both influence and reward positive student outcomes, like what we have seen at Eaton Academy in Eastpointe.

The autonomy of Michigan charters continues to positively influence education in our state. Charter schools are consistently implementing operational and human resource efficiencies that have a direct impact on school quality. Few charter schools are operating under union contracts, allowing schools to implement innovative scheduling and

Finally, and maybe most importantly, Michigan charters have provided positive, quality educational options to some of our most at-risk students. Many charter schools tend to be clustered near or in urban areas where traditional public schools have failed. In every urban center in Michigan with a charter concentration, charter schools are outperforming their traditional counterparts. Michigan charters are serving more minority students, more economically disadvantaged students, and willingly

enrolling students who have been pushed out of local school districts. At strict discipline academies, like Outlook Academy in Allegan, adjudicated youth are receiving education and rehabilitation. At Detroit Achievement Academy, the principal can often be found visiting students’ homes to get them to school and parents can earn needed household goods for participating in school activities. This is a true testament to the impact that charters can have on students who otherwise might slip through the cracks. This, along with the autonomy, the innovative approaches to education, and the entrepreneurial spirit is the true beacon of light in the charter school movement in Michigan. Michigan charter schools, including your charter school, provide an example of what education can and should be. When we are unencumbered by bureaucracies and red tape, students win. When students win, especially those that no one expects to, people take notice. And when people take notice, we change the way education is done. YOU are changing the way education is done. Congratulations on being a part of the movement. Let’s keep moving. •


Angela Romanowski Superintendent Trillium Academy


As a leader in a charter school for the past 14 years, it can be hard to step out of the everyday drive and reflect on where we stand. It seems as we all begin, we start off with the big picture in mind and then we get to work and it quickly becomes putting out fires and answering immediate needs. It’s almost as if we get lost along the way. We are working hard, but zigzagging through instead of driving straight. I believe it happens because there are so many legislative requirements and logistical nuances that happen every day in the world of education and we are just trying to meet every demand. This begs the question—Where are we and where did we plan to be? Charter schools were designed to be a choice for parents to offer something unique; to provide something that our host districts or the traditional setting was not providing for our students. At the creation of our school, the needs of our resident students were not being met. What needs? Our school was created to offer a strong academic school with a corresponding fine and performing arts program. Arts were not a large offering in the traditional schools in our area. So that was it. That was our niche. That was what was going to set us apart and make us a great choice for our students. Fast forward through the bumps and bruises of starting a new school, we found that as the years went on and we had to keep up with the ever-changing requirements and demands of education, we faded on who we were. We started to become all things to all kids. We would get students in, or in an attempt to enroll students, and felt the need to offer what they needed or wanted. We began becoming increasingly competitive with surrounding charters as well as the traditional districts and we became less than what we could be, which is an amazing environment that

offers college-focused academics with the discipline of a strong arts program. In the last year, while we have been a great school, we know we could be better and we believe it is because we lost our focus. We were not being true to our “niche,” to what makes us unique. We came to this conclusion as we reflected on training sessions from the Grand Traverse Pie Company and Zingerman’s. Both of these companies know who they are and where they want to be. I think there is so much we can take away from them. Imagine a world in which we stood true to the philosophy of charter design; choice based on your child’s need. Imagine the possibilities if we all supported each other and knew who we were. Imagine if we helped guide parents to the right school for their child even if it wasn’t our own school. I can stand behind what we do in our school and know that it is a great place for the students we serve and I also know that it isn’t the best fit for every child. While we offer athletics, we do not offer all athletics and we need to make choices to say, “No that’s not what we do and we won’t spend resources to add it.” We want to be the best at what we do and serve those children that need our programming. We are at a tipping point this year. We know that moving forward means that we need to make some improvements and some difficult choices. We need to clarify who we are, what makes us unique and carefully determine our steps to ensure that we are doing everything we can to deliver it. Getting back to our roots doesn’t mean we can’t grow, it simply means that we grow best when fueled by our unique identity and purpose. Our goal is to move forward with this mindset for our school and we would love if our education counterparts shared in this venture. Let’s work together to make education for our children a true choice to find what’s best for them.

Making sure that no child grieves alone‌. For the last 25 years, Ele’s Place has served grieving children, teens and their families across the state of Michigan. At no cost to the families we serve, our programs are offered in Lansing, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Flint. For more information about Ele’s Place, visit

FEEDBACK IN ACTION Building the Charter Vision

As educators, you know the power of words and actions. You teach your students to think before they speak and to understand the impact of their words. The mantra of “actions speak louder than words” is likely posted on the walls of your school as you teach kids the value of character traits such as empathy and compassion. You believe in the value of these lessons because you have witnessed the impact on the lives of those on the unfortunate end of such harmful words or actions. Impact includes but is not limited to low self-esteem, diminished confidence and a changed vision for what might be possible.

We are committed to working with our members to build a consistent vision and message that goes beyond limits imagined today and that holds each of us accountable for protecting the charter school brand through our actions and our words. As a first step to this, a group of leaders participated in a Zing Train workshop called, “Creating A Vision of Greatness.” The goal was to begin developing the framework for a vision to be embraced by the charter community. This framework will continue to be vetted and expanded in order to create a charter school vision that will strengthen, not splinter, the charter brand. Charter schools will contribute to the community by being part of the community. We will provide opportunity for students to learn beyond the walls of the classroom and beyond the environment in which they know.

You believe this impact to be true of people. We believe this impact to also be true of a brand. And, we fear the confidence and self-worth of the charter school brand has been shaken, changing what might be possible for the families served by charter schools. It is the responsibility of each member of the charter community to nurture and protect the brand of charter schools. The action of one defines the whole. Impulsive words will play into the rhetoric of charter opponents. This rhetoric, on the heels of a diminishing student population and increased pressures in a fight for existence, will splinter the charter community. At MAPSA, we believe in the opportunity provided by each of our members. We believe in the impossibility that becomes possible because of your schools. We applaud the individualism each of you own and we take pride in your accomplishments. We cherish knowing that students truly are at the heart of the charter movement.

We will engage students in learning through valuing their own interests and integrating those interests in our curriculum. We will empower students to own their destiny, tracking their own learning and setting their own goals. We will build teams that believe every student can and will succeed. Charter schools will nurture each child and prepare him/her for success. Likewise, teachers will be supported, respected, empowered and rewarded for their contributions. Charter schools will be collaborative and supportive, always putting the needs of students at the heart of tough decisions. We will embrace the risk of failure knowing that the risk of status quo is far more frightening. Do you want to be part of building the vision for charter schools? Email us at!


Have feedback on this plan? Email us at 22





MAPSA offers opportunities for schools to connect and collaborate with peers to help you achieve your goals! The A-F accountability initiative MAPSA has advocated for over the last three years has come back around to the table in the legislature. But, it’s not an easy sell. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the most highly opposed bills on the table. Why? Because the consequences of accountability are terrifying and unpopular, especially if the measures of the accountability are not truly reflective of a school’s performance. Charter schools are the epitome of accountability. Parents decide the fate of a school first and foremost. And with there being no shortage of options in some communities, often times as a school, you aren’t given the feedback on those measures until a different choice has been made. Enter now: authorizer accountability. Performance targets are set and it is a school’s responsibility to meet those measures with a consequence of closure. It now takes on a new definition that includes not only academic performance but also financial performance. Enter now: state accountability. State accountability is intended to illustrate school performance. It is intended to identify schools that don’t perform and trigger consequences. A state accountability system should provide clear information to education stakeholders, parents and the public. Yet Michigan’s accountability system is confusing, slow and it utilizes the least understood measures of success. It is ever-changing and the outcomes


don’t align with the more sophisticated accountability that charter authorizers utilize. As a result, charter schools haven’t embraced it, but are utilizing more meaningful approaches, creating an appearance that charter schools do not believe in accountability. This is a branding challenge. It impacts your enrollment. It impacts your time on task as you defend your performance. It impacts your autonomy. It impacts your teacher’s pride and level of empowerment. So, how can we be sure that charter schools embrace the measures and the consequences and can reclaim the brand associated to quality education? We set out to ask that question in the winter Charter Connection meetings. With nearly 60% of our members represented at meetings across the state, we sought to discover the elements of an accountability system that you would embrace. Here’s what you shared with us: Accountability is necessary. We must be able to clearly demonstrate student performance to parents choosing your schools. While charter schools provide many value-added elements of education such as character programs, safe environments and even serving as a source for the only healthy meals a student receives, education must go beyond that. As a community, we must not forget that our goal is to prepare students to be positive contributors to society and to do this requires a certain level of knowledge. Accountability should be more than a check box. It should be meaningful down to the classroom level, supporting and empowering teachers rather than placing the proverbial handcuffs on their practice.

A meaningful measure of performance should include both a growth and proficiency measure in the most simplistic form. However, measuring performance isn’t simplistic. To more accurately see the impact of teaching and learning, performance must be looked at in varying reference frames including accounting for known environmental challenges such as truancy and attrition. It must also place more emphasis on growth for those students who are furthest from proficiency. Methodology for measuring growth must be explored and tested for relevance. Growth expectations must consider individual student economic status and the challenges that may impact the path to proficiency as well as those students achieving beyond proficiency expectations impacting the capacity for growth. Also, supports must be built-in for all students to overcome these challenges to ensure academic standards remain high. Accountability should incorporate streamlined reporting and performance measures. It should not require additional work for schools but rather be a meaningful part of everyday practice. Achieving the ultimate goal of 100% proficiency for all students, or even 100% of students meeting growth expectations, there are social and environmental challenges that must be overcome first. These challenges are not an excuse for performance, or even 100% of students meeting growth expectations, but rather strategies to be addressed by the community as a whole to truly raise the bar on education. Do you have feedback on these lessons learned from the field? Are they reflective of your feelings? Did we miss something? Let us know! Send an email to mapsa@

Sign up today for the next Charter Connection meeting in your23 area at


Ra jeshri Gandhi-Bhatia CEO School Smarts, LLC There is no greater way to impact student achievement than to have a highly effective teacher in every classroom. Even better is to have highly qualified, passionate, mission-driven folks in every position. Yet finding and retaining talent remains one of the biggest challenges faced by schools. Often times, schools invest heavily in high-potential faculty members, only to have them leave for another opportunity. This phenomenon can sometimes make schools reluctant to commit and even worse, lead to practices that encourage people to look elsewhere for employment. It can become a vicious cycle, as schools turn over a large number of teachers year-over-year, making the organization less stable and in turn, leading to teachers having less confidence in the school and looking elsewhere for employment. This cycle is playing itself out in many schools and is doing nothing to benefit students. The Drucker Institute, headed by management guru Peter Drucker, has this to say about hiring in schools: “By and large, executives make poor promotion and staffing decisions,” Peter Drucker observed. “By all accounts, their batting average is no better than .333: At most one-third of such decisions turn out right; one-third are minimally effective; and one-third are outright failures. In no other area of management would we put up with such miserable performance.” Yet some companies seem to identify and attract great people consistently. What sets 24


them apart? To find out, we asked winning executives from across all sectors— corporate, nonprofit and government—to provide tips based on how they themselves hire and promote. Their advice: Go really, really deep. Ditch the job description. Reward the self-aware. Climb inside your candidates’ heads. Root out your own biases. Look for those with grit. And remember to grow your own talent. (Drucker, December 2015) So we have our work cut out for us! Let’s explore some ways that we can improve our batting average!

FIRST THINGS FIRST… WHO IS ON THE TEAM? CONDUCT A TALENT AUDIT As you build your staffing plans for next year, before you rush out to place an ad or attend a job fair to fill that third grade classroom position, take a moment to do a talent audit of your organization and create a retention plan. Clearly, organizations have to recruit new talent from the outside, but is more important to retain the effective people who are already associated with the organization. The cost of finding new hires and onboarding, both monetarily and culturally, is quite high.

To conduct this audit, go through each and every employee to identify his/her relative value to the organization. You can use tools to help you with this audit or simply gather your leadership team and do it informally (though at some point, someone should audit your leadership team as well). Articulate the strengths that each person brings, their areas of greatness, areas for development and any


other ‘x’ factors that raise their value. Be sure to look beyond performance and evaluate who each person is as a personwho you hire is far more important that what role (s)he plays. Skills can be taught and developed, values and attitude cannot. Determine how aligned each person is to the mission and vision of the school and what impact each has on the culture of the organization. As you do this exercise, you will quickly identify the areas and attributes that you and your school value. You may also discover some hidden talents within people that may fill a need within your school.


Once you have conducted your talent audit, identify your stars-the folks who truly do good work and embody the ideals of your organization. Articulate what makes them your stars; what attributes do they have that make them invaluable to your organization. Chances are that their value goes far beyond sheer skills and includes their general attitude and personality. There should also be a high degree of mission and vision alignment and these folks should be the ones who add value to the culture and raise the level of organizational emotion. How committed are these stars to your organization and do they know how valued they are? It’s really important to identify the rich talent already present within your organization, articulate for yourself why these people are such assets and communicate to them how highly you value them.

Part of your retention plan should be to get the stars to commit to your organization as early as possible (and for multiple years, if possible) so that you can assure their place on your team. Due to uncertainty and fluctuations in enrollment, many schools wait until the last minute to issue employment contracts to ensure that the school has a staff that matches its needs. While that approach is understandable, the cost to the culture is very high as employees are left out in the cold and insecure about their future with the school. It is this insecurity that can drive an employee who is otherwise happy and successful to look for new opportunities. Once you have identified your stars, which will be a small percentage of your overall staff, it can

be very effective to commit to them and get them to commit to you. A formal contract is the best way to establish this commitment, but if that is not possible, simply telling him/her, “You are a great teacher/staff member and your work makes this school a better place. I cannot imagine this school without you and we are very excited to have you as a part of the team for the next year(s).” This lets the person know that (s)he is valued and has a place on the team for the following year. It also validates their hard work, giving them the confidence to invest more in the organization and see their place for the longer term. You can also begin to learn about their needs and expectations so that you can plan to meet them in order to keep them on the team.

After you have identified your stars, identify your next level of High Potential folks. Perhaps these people haven’t been with the organization long enough to have had big successes or have had moderate success, but demonstrated that they have the potential to break through with support. These people can be thought of as your “stars in the making.” This is the group who you may not be able to completely commit to early, but can certainly let them know where they stand. This group of people is ripe for development. As your pool of future stars, they can be supported with resources and guidance, allowing them to grow into the needs of the organization and raise their level of commitment along the way.

organization to invest in someone to help him/her develop, if s/he is willing to put in the work.

A large percentage of your staff may fall into the Neutral category-people who have not really set the world on fire, but also haven’t done anything to put their job in jeopardy. This group is the one that you and your team need to focus on from a retention standpoint to decide if there is potential or if they are just filling a seat. It can be very tempting to allow these types of employees to remain with an organization because there is a fear that their replacement may be worse. Remember that we serve kids and they deserve someone who is motivated and has the potential for greatness. The attitude and effort that one exhibits is completely under his/her control and can be the factor that encourages an

their cost to the organization is very high. Stars are repelled by Negaholics and can be the reason that valued staff members leave. There is no room for Negaholics on your team and the retention strategy for these folks is to not retain them. Letting them know early can be risky as they may behave even more negatively, but if they are already depleting the organization, what do you have to lose? You may also experience addition by subtraction as some of who you may want to retain might be encouraged to know that they won’t have to work with these folks in the future. Free yourself from these folks and use that energy to develop the others. >>

The last group who should (hopefully) be your smallest and who should take up the least amount of your time in terms of planning for future years are your Negaholics. These are the folks that create a drain on the organization and who demonstrate no real alignment with the school. If it’s early in the year, there may be some value to trying to convert them, however if they’ve misbehaved all year, they are not likely to change. Some of these folks may be performing well, but at what cost? Again, it can be tempting to accommodate these folks because there is fear of not finding a replacement, but



Too often in schools, there is a sense of entitlement. Schools feel entitled to students, teachers feel entitled to jobs, etc. Just like in this day and age of choice, it is imperative to have retention as a key component of our student enrollment management, the same is true for employees. Talent is a hot commodity and schools cannot take for granted that people will just stay on forever, even though historically, the school has had a great deal of inertia with respect to staffing. One key to effective human capital management is to look at the employment relationship from the perspective of the employee. Ask yourself how does this person know that (s)he is valued and successful? What has the organization and the leadership done to encourage growth, development and engagement from these highly talented individuals? Work with your team to develop a retention strategy for each person. While simply validating their work and inviting them to be on the team for the next year may be enough to keep some of them, others may require more investment on the part of the school. Pay increases or bonuses are one strategy to consider employing, and it’s important that schools remain competitive with respect to compensation. Organizations must also recognize that different individuals bring different strengths to the school and it is not always possible to use longevity as rationale for compensation decisions. As an industry, we must become comfortable with valuing certain skills and talents over others. Knowing your school’s values and goals can be very helpful to you as you place monetary value on a staff member’s skill set. A 7th grade science teacher who also leads the student government, has fantastic parent relationships and mentors new teachers may add more value than 8th grade social studies teacher who has great results with her students and participates in staff activities. There are several models for bonus structures that schools can reference, but ultimately, the compensation structure has to be sustainable for the school and match the school’s values. Surprisingly, higher pay is not always enough to retain highly talented 26


individuals. Support, leadership opportunities, professional development and autonomy can be just as valuable and lead to increased job satisfaction. Knowing the individual goals, aspirations and motivating factors for each person are incredibly important assets to developing a retention strategy. Be creative and find something that allows the person to more fully connect with the school. Compare the talents and interest of each person to the needs of your school-perhaps there is a way to get creative with positions that allows your dollars to stretch further.

Talent likes talent and people like to be part of a winning team. Once you’ve identified your retention strategy for each person, create timelines and teams to execute it. If possible, engage some of your stars to help you. Talent likes talent and people like to be part of a winning team.


Once you have identified the talent that resides within your organization and matched it to the needs, you will be able to better define what external recruiting you need to do. Creating a solid recruiting and hiring process is a key element to successful human capital management. A good process takes into consideration the needs, culture and resources within an organization and clearly identifies goals and specific actions. It is also imperative that it be led and executed by a team of people to ensure engagement and efficiency. As a first step, schools can begin to get creative about where to find prospective employees. University job fairs and newspaper advertisements are popular places to draw out talent, but do not allow for much differentiation. They are also the same sources used by most schools, so a competitive environment can result. As schools clearly identify their needs as well


as their cultural/attitudinal expectations, they can begin to search out other sources for talent. Creating an internal referral program can also be very effective, particularly in conjunction with a solid retention strategy. Professional recruiters can also be great partners. As you recruit, consider the tools you are using to recruit and ensure that they match what you are looking for in candidates. Re-read your job descriptions and review your website and other promotional materials to ensure that they convey the qualities you are seeking and the culture of your organization. A good job description should be inspirational, elicit passion and a sense of making a difference, it should paint a picture of your organization that makes a candidate want to jump in immediately. Too often, these tools focus on the tactical aspects of a position and not on the emotional/ affective ones. Appeal to a candidate’s heart, as well as his/her mind. Depending on the school’s needs, there are several tools that can be helpful in the interview process that can identify values, skills and attitudes of prospective employees. Additionally, including a demonstration lesson for teaching candidates can be of great value to see how candidates interact with students in context. The post conference can also be a great tool to see how a candidate selfreflects and accepts feedback. Finally, once you’ve decided who you want to make offers to, use the experience to model what it will be like to work at the school. A personal conversation in which you outline why the candidate is the perfect fit and why you value his/ her talents makes the person feel valued immediately. This conversation can also be the time to explain the onboarding process and any mentoring support that is provided. The offer is more than just paperwork and compensation negotiation, it’s the beginning of your relationship with your new employee and your HR department can eventually handle the logistics once you’ve welcomed your new teammate. By successfully integrating deliberate internal retention, employee engagement and focused external recruitment, we can all raise our hiring batting averages by strategically managing our human capital. •

LEVERAGE YOUR GRADUATION STORIES FOR GREAT PR Buddy Moorehouse VP of Communications MAPSA Not long ago, WDIV-TV in Detroit ran a heartwarming story about Detroit Edison Public School Academy, and the fact that 100 percent of that year’s graduating class was heading off to college. The TV anchor introduced the story this way: “It seems all too often that we hear stories of local schools that are falling short in meeting the needs of students and the education that they deserve. But this is not one of those stories.” For the next two minutes on the screen, we saw shots of achievement and success, and heard from college-bound graduates whose lives were literally transformed and saved by the opportunity they received at DEPSA. Any parent seeing that TV

report would no doubt come away from it thinking, “Wow, this would be a great school for my child.”

newspaper and TV reporters are always looking for heartwarming and interesting stories come graduation time (just like WDIV was). Contact them and say, “If you’re looking for a great graduation story, I’ve got one!”

If you’re a high school, there is no better story you can tell than the story of a successful graduate. Prospective parents are always looking for reasons to check out a specific school, and when they see the story of a successful grad, it’s sure to get their attention.

• Get those stories out on social media.

Here are three things you should be doing if you’re a high school, right now: • Identify your great grad stories. If

you have 50 students in this year’s graduating class, then you’ve got 50 different stories. Of those, though, you’ve probably got five or six GREAT ones – stories of students who overcame great odds, won big scholarships, found their passion and are now pursuing it, etc. Talk with your staff and identify what those are.

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While it’s great to get these into the newspapers or on TV, social media can be just as effective – if not moreso. Take individual pictures of the grads (or do short videos) and post them on your Facebook and Instagram pages. In a few short sentences, tell their stories. You’ll be amazed how many people start sharing them – and how many new parents will be exposed to your school as a result.

Don’t let this graduation season pass without taking full advantage of it. Make it a priority to identify and tell your very best grad stories.

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Advocacy Day Participants On the road again…the MAPSA Buddy was very busy traveling across the state to see all the supporters who traveled to Lansing for Advocacy Day on December 3 with large groups of people to share their stories on how charters make a difference! We recognize here at MAPSA we can’t keep doing all of the important work we do without all of you. Your efforts, support, and time working on the charter movement to move us forward does not go unnoticed. Congratulations to Principal Aaron Warren and the Island City Academy family! You are the winner of our Buddy award and a $100 Staples gift card! Principal Warren, we know the amount of effort you put into your job and making sure your students stay engaged in the community and what’s going on around them. It was awesome to see your 8th graders involved in Advocacy Day for the opportunity to learn. Here at MAPSA we appreciate your support and assure you that your efforts are appreciated!


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Student Mastery - Not Grade Level Determined a Student’s Path

When a parent has a new child, they are beset with worry. Should the baby be rolling over by now? What about crawling? Should she be walking soon? What about talking? Doctors field many nervous questions from parents. And, barring any developmental issues, they often respond with “all in due time, children develop at different rates.” In the back of our minds, we know this to be true. We know that development is not scheduled and does not follow a strict calendar. Yet as soon as a child starts attending school this is all but forgotten.

Autonomy and flexibility provide opportunity. Tell us how you’ve incorporated a mastery learning strategy in your building!

True, schools spend a lot of time assessing students to determine where they are and providing resources to “catch them” up. They might even group them within grades to better educate them at their level. But structurally, expectations are still set by grade level, which corresponds to a student’s age. What if the student’s academic and developmental skill set the pace for expectations; not how old they are? What if schools were able to focus on mastery or comprehension relevant to each student’s path? This seems like a difficult feat, but consider what happens when mastery isn’t the primary goal: A student who struggles with understanding the basic concepts behind fractions is going to continue to struggle until he gets it. During that time, the class may have moved on to more difficult work with fractions. Adding, multiplying or dividing something you don’t understand to begin with is tough. And each and every lesson thereafter relies on understanding fundamental principles of the initial concept. While other students continue to improve, this student will likely disengage. On the flipside, a few students might know fractions so well that they disengage because they are bored and the material isn’t moving fast enough. Teachers encounter this issue every day, and work hard to intervene. Students receive additional reading or math time, participate in RTI programs, or are placed in remedial courses. This all requires additional resources to make it happen. What if students weren’t seen as “ahead” or “behind” schedule in their learning? What if we determined whether or not a student had mastered a concept, and had the freedom, resources, support and structure in a school to make sure they mastered a concept before moving on? How many more students would be engaged in their work? How many more students wouldn’t be just getting by?


CHOOSY PARENTS CHOOSE CHARTERS Angi Beland VP of Operations & Strategy MAPSA The landscape of education changed significantly when the vision of charter schools became a reality. The creation of charter schools unlocked new opportunity for parents to be engaged in their child’s journey to graduation. It allowed for students to experience unique approaches to education, including the integration of interests such as music or the environment, into learning. It was an unknown discovery that soon became part of a new normal for thousands of parents. Charter schools became a choice in public education that parents value. Until they became the definition of choice. While tens of thousands of parents make decisions to exercise school choice in the traditional environment, we often find ourselves still advocating for parent choice. Charter supporters defend their ability to opt for a different path, while the thousands of others enjoy choice peacefully, exercising their options under county school of choice opportunity. Based on our polling information, nearly 75% of parents in Detroit are seeking more choice. 30



It’s been 20 years. It’s time to celebrate charter schools for the founding reasons in which they were created. It’s time to get back to our roots and remember where the vision intended to take education. It’s time to reignite the discovery phase and embrace meaningful student engagement strategies. It’s time to stop hiding inside the box and operating as the change agents intended in the original vision. It’s time to take pride in what a charter school is. It’s time to remind ourselves within the charter community of why parents choose charters. Because choosing a charter school is vastly different from simply exercising choice. In the past few months, MAPSA has engaged with parents across the state to discover the motivation of choosing charters. We’ve found inspiration in talking directly to parents while also finding hope in commissioned polling that shows parents are making choices based on the values created by charters. As you wrap up your enrollment campaign, let these stories keep you rooted in a pride that is unmatched by anything less than an amazing education. CHARTERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Do you want official polling results from 600 Detroit parents or to update your listing on MAPSA’s school search site? Send us an email at

Charters make a difference because: d our children to have the experience of a private We chose charter because my husband and I wante tunity at a free cost. I have 4 children in charter oppor school but couldn’t afford it. Charter offers us that been in charter since kindergarten. th ranging from 4th- 12 grade and my 3 youngest have

that one being for the whole child experience. I know I also chose charter for many additional reasons, nt. stude each to ated are truly dedic my kid’s teachers are teaching at their own will and ement in my charter school. When my son was in In addition, I value the availability for parent involv rd the opportunity to be as involved as I would have traditional public school in 3 grade, I was not given l. with my children in the classroom and the schoo liked. Now, I have the opportunity to be involved . you receive anything lower than an 80%, you’re failing The school academically pushes their students; if build and ssful succe be to s mean and the resources My charter offers students of all learning capacities also so dedicated and want each child to succeed. are rs teache l’s schoo My t. pmen develo cter on chara is attending MSU in the fall on the Evan’s scholarship. And as a result of this extra push, my oldest son TH TH TH 12TH GRADE STUDENTS SUSAN, PARENT OF 4 , 6 , 8 AND

My school was excited for me and encouraged me to pursue my new interests. By encouraging me in my personal growth and development in academics, the charter school allowed me freedom to explore the world in a safe, supportive environment. I never once questioned whether or not I mattered to my teachers because they knew me by name and personality. They knew my family, my friends, and my dreams for the future. This personalized education prepared me for further education. Because of the opportunities I had going to a charter school, I was given freedom and support to explore my interests and develop a love of learning. ALECIA, CHARTER SCHOOL ALUMNI

The classrooms are better managed and have a better child to adult ratio. The public schools are overcrowded and have no funding. Children lack resources that charter schools can give. We have art and PE teachers whereas many public schools now have teachers do that all on their own and don’t have a person specialized in that. Plus they don’t tolerate bullying. NICOLE, PARENT OF 2ND GRADER

Mainly, I appreciate that it operates independently from the mainstream public school system. I don’t want to use the phrase “govern themselves” but I think that’s the kind of attitude I have. Adjustment and change in their system is easier that way, and they can keep developing an atmosphere that meets the needs of the students. Teaching strategies, grading, testing, behavior guidelines, training opportunities, etc.- it’s less political (less stupid decisions because it’s “tradition”). The charter schools that I’ve experienced have all had that “home” feeling, the school is smaller and it’s easier to stay involved. If I relocated out of the area, I would definitely seek the charter route wherever I ended up. NICOLE, PARENT OF 1ST AND 4TH GRADER

As graduates of large, local public scho ols, my husband and I knew we wan ted something different for our child group of kids who weren’t at the top ren’s education. We both fell into the of our class, the bottom of our class and weren’t troublemakers - which meant we were never really noticed. We considered several options as our oldest was nearing kindergarten, inclu ding private schools, homeschooling school was the perfect blend of what and charters. A local charter was important to us. Both of our children attended the char ter school from K-12, graduating with honors. Our daughter, and oldest child love of reading and writing.  During , was encouraged to pursue her an independent study during her soph omore year, she researched publishin becoming an author. She refined a pape g companies and the process of r she had written in a 6th grade scien ce class, submitted it and became a 16-y teachers and staff encouraged this jour ear old published author. The ney and prepared her for the public speaking and appearances that were to come. Our son was more math and science focused, entering high school with two math credits already earned. The teach high school to make sure he was chal ers worked with him throughout lenged - they met him at his need. As a senior he was given the opportunity charter was able to introduce a class to assist in teaching physics. The category that would ensure that he wou ld earn credit as well. Sports played a large role for our son as well.  I believe had he been part of a large school, he would not have had runner and basketball player as he did. the success as a cross country In fact, he may not have ‘made’ the team s.  His experiences from being part of opportunities to lead and perform com a team, presenting bined with his academic achievements set him on a path that has taken him Academy. He is currently in his first to the United States Military year at West Point. We believe that by our kids having teach ers that knew their names, knew their personalities, their learning strengths the best environment to apply themselve and weaknesses, they had s.  The smaller class sizes and caliber of teachers at the charter school affor experience - the one we were looking ded them the best educational for. JENNY, PARENT OF 12TH GR ADE STUDENT AND CHART ER SCHOOL ALUMNI


Innovators in Education REGISTER TODAY!

INNOVATORS IN EDUCATION FALL SYMPOSIUM October 20 & 21, 2016 | Troy Marriott Detroit

Join us at #InnovatEd16 as we bring together educators from various backgrounds for thoughtprovoking conversation around improving education for ALL kids. This two-day event incorporates motivational messages and best practices to inspire thoughtful discussion similar to a college classroom. The Fall Symposium drives conversation, fuels strategic thinking and reinvigorates educational pioneers with passion and motivation to continue their extremely dedicated jobs.

“The bes tw in your b ay to build cap acity uilding is through the lead ers the Inno hip teams, and vators in Educatio Fall Sym n posium p r opportu ovides t hat nity.� - Sha nal Herit wn Leonard, age Acad emies


Charter Connect Spring 2016  
Charter Connect Spring 2016