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C D N O T G N I H S S N A A W E L R O W E N K R O Y W E N N O T S BO [fall 2016 edition]

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

(989) 774-2100 |

As the charter school association, we take great pride in the impact our members are having and will continue to have on the lives of the families you serve. While this year has brought attacks on charter schools, our team sees the vision of charter schools living and breathing each day.  It’s a vision that starts with what we know to be true and ends with encompassing the hope we share with you for the success of all students in Michigan. This is our vision for what can be. For what should be. For what will be.


Our Charter Vision

Dan Quisenberry MAPSA President

As you walk into any charter school across the state of Michigan, you quickly understand that kids are at the heart of it. You don’t know quite how to explain how you know it, but you feel it.

community of educated kids. Soon after, you’ll remember how much you envied the teachers that get the opportunity to teach these amazing kids, and wish you had their gift.

Welcomed by a smile that leads to small talk around the achievement poster hung in the entry, be it with a leader, teacher, parent or student, you hear the pride that comes with being part of the charter school community.

As you take in the landscape of education around Michigan, you realize that charter schools have found their place in successfully contributing to the success of all schools in Michigan. Charter schools dream big for students and lead on innovation, successfully fulfilling their purpose of inspiring solutions that aren’t yet even imagined.

Looking around, you feel the creativity and passion that inspired the student work that’s covering the walls and a peek inside a classroom of students actively engaged in learning brings a quick and lasting smile. And, you can’t help but to be a bit envious of the team that gets to spend their day with these amazing kids! As you take a walk around town and engage with members of the community, they will tell you they value having the choice of unique models of education to best serve the students of the community. Parents will brag about the success of their charter graduates and the opportunity a different approach to learning granted them. And, without fail, they will sing the praises of the magic that teachers deliver every day and the impact it has had on building a strong

Innovative strategies that are proving to raise achievement for all students are prevalent across charter and traditional schools. You recognize a charter educator when you meet one because they’re the first person to admit that we haven’t achieved success until we’ve achieved failure. They’ve learned to celebrate the setbacks of innovation, embracing them as the first step to discovering greatness, and are revered in the community for the ability to lead through defeat. As the charter school community and stakeholders discuss the future of charter schools, it’s clear that when true innovation is embraced, supported and owned as a responsibility to kids, the unimaginable can be achieved.





Washday Wednesday


Of the People, By the people, For the People

By Pamela Haldy

By Leslie King


Taking a Half Step in Decision Sense-Making

By Dr. Jay Kulbertis


Teachers: Be More Interesting Than a Cell Phone

By Ronald Brown


Aquiring Quality Talent

Thomas E. Ackerman


Letter from the President


Letters to the Editor

Our Charter Vision

Charter Schools are a Civil Right of the 21st Century


Chalk Talk


Cover Story

Closure with Purpose Experience the Charter World


CONNECT 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 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 leah theriault alicia urbain sara vanderbilt

MAPSA BOARD member treasurer secretary 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 mohamad issa - global educational excellence jennifer jarosz- charlton heston academy greg mcneilly - windquest group david seitz - apple computer, inc. tiffany taylor - teach for america buzz thomas - thomas consulting group tim wood - gvsu charter schools office

AD INDEX Center for Charter Schools CMU Grand Valley State University CMU Online Degrees Saunders Winter McNeil, PLLC Detroit Institute for Children Flagstar Bank National Charter Schools Institute General Agency Company Thrun Law Firm, P.C. Francis Young International The College Board Innovators In Education Symposium

Inside Front Cover pg. 14 pg. 17 pg. 17 pg. 28 pg. 28 pg. 28 pg. 30 pg. 30 pg. 30 Inside Back Cover Back Cover


ducation has always been at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in America. The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, where the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in education was unconstitutional, is considered the beginning of the modern Civil Rights Era. African Americans along with most other progressive Americans recognized the importance of that decision because it allowed parents of all races to send their children to any public school of their choice. Since that historic ruling, many African American families have either moved to the suburbs in order to give their children a better quality education, or have opted to send them to private schools. For those that remained in the city, many could not afford the high cost of private school tuition, and as a result, their children were left to attend large public schools, where the quality of education continues to decline to this day. Seeing the need for an affordable middle ground between public and private schools, the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks was planning to create the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in 1997. She believed that charter schools should be an option for all parents. Offering the same free education as


hen I founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in 2011, it was certainly a feel-good endeavor. The school is located in the 48235 – the same zip code in Detroit where I grew up, where my friends and neighbors are, where I still get my hair cut. That number – 48235 – has defined my life more than any statistic, and it felt good to be able to open a school there. For me, though, JRLA has gone from being a feel-good endeavor, to a necessary one. Other charter school leaders and founders no doubt feel the same way. Without schools like JRLA as an option, where would these students be? For kids in the 48235 – for kids everywhere – education is a civil right. And today, rather than inequalities based on race,


Charter Schools are a Civil Right of the 21st Century

public schools, charter schools are independently run and have many of the principals of private schools, providing the same smaller, safer environments with more selective teaching methods. By the late 1990s, charter schools began to emerge in cities across the country. Charter schools broke down the barrier that separated first-class education for families that could afford it from those that could not. In Detroit over 35% of parents exercise their civil right to choose the school they want their children to attend. That number continues to increase and in 2012, Detroit was ranked #2 in the country for charter school enrollment. Brown v. Board of Education opened public schools to families regardless of race, now charter schools eliminate income as a restriction for parents seeking the best education for their children.

Bernard Parker CEO- Timbuktu Academy

there’s now a fiscal divide that exists in public education. And it needs to change. Charter schools in Michigan are at the bottom when it comes to school funding – about $7,200 per student. That’s not right. Yes, 48235 is the number that has probably determined more in my life than anything else. But hopefully through the work we’re doing, those numbers — 48235 and $7,200 — no longer have to define our students or their futures. Portions of this first appeared in The Players’ Tribune. For more information on JRLA, visit Jalen Rose is the founder and board president of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a charter high school in Detroit. He currently works as a commentator on ABC and ESPN. Jalen Rose Founder - Jalen Rose Leadership Academy






he concept of school closure is one that carries a flood of emotions. The premise of the charter school movement is based on that flexibility, in exchange for academic accountability, provides the opportunity for the innovation that will promote student success beyond any imaginable expectation. Naturally, there is a certain appeal to the concept of innovation. It’s the side of the equation that offers the optimism that a new way of approaching education can yield lasting, life-changing impact on kids. This concept of testing hypotheses and proving the legitimacy of new strategies toward the goal of improving all schools most certainly creates a significant purpose and quest to the charter movement. But, in the excitement of this amazing opportunity, it seems we may have all forgotten that experiments are unpredictable. And, by their very nature, they are intended to have some failures. The passing of charter school legislation was not intended to be a promise to exist without failure. Instead, it was a promise to promote ideas that may very well lead to failure and to be accountable for managing the impact of the ideas that fall short to the end goal of greater student success. Enter closure. Closure is a glass half-full, glass half-empty scenario. Regardless of your position there are some very real truths about closure. Families will be displaced, leaving parents to take on the challenge of finding a new school with new and different expectations. Kids will be uprooted from something they know as a critical part of their normal. Teachers will be isolated as they work to support their students, yet know they too face the exact same challenges. It’s no wonder that polling and experience show us that even when all the facts justify a school being closed, parents and the public in general don’t like it. MAPSA and other stakeholders, however, understand the value of the original premise and will continue to advocate for closure. Why? Because while all of these truths are uncomfortable, there is another set of truths that can exist when closure is done right. It’s the glass half-full scenario in which closure is celebrated for the impact it has on the broader scope of education. It’s closure with purpose. Closure with purpose places kids at the heart of the conversation while managing the system surrounding them to ensure they get what they need. It’s a system that supports parents in finding a stronger match for their students in high-performing schools and prioritizes this placement. It’s a system that provides a wide variety of choice so that fit is never compromised. It’s a system that ensures the irreplaceable teachers are recruited to high-performing schools. It’s a system that is collaborative and uncompromising on expectations for student success. It’s a system that the charter school sector is modeling, and working on perfecting. As we enter the next phase of accountability, MAPSA will advocate for charter schools to model true academic accountability. Our sector must embrace and own the inherent risk and failures that are necessary to find greater success, while managing the impact of a stabilizing market. We must recognize and promote the actions that will lead to greater student outcomes. We must own the promise of charter schools and measure our own success against the success of all schools in Michigan.

As members of the charter school movement, we must perfect the processes for opening, closing and replacing schools to ensure that closure does result in significant learning gains such as those illustrated in the recent study School Closures and Student Achievement: An Analysis of Ohio’s Urban Districts and Charter Schools which confirms the learning gains demonstrated by displaced students. We have greater than 20 years of experience practicing innovation. As a result, we have great insight into how to improve outcomes. We continue to discover new ideas that may or may not work. It’s risky and uncertain. But, what is certain is doing the same old thing will leave us with the same results. If we are to truly put students first, there is no room for complacency.

In this coming year, MAPSA will lead on quality. We will advocate for closure done well because we believe that it’s a path to improvement. We will support coordination and collaboration because it is critical to ensuring choice is adequate and accessible. We will connect with parents to build a community because we believe that parents are at the heart of the movement. We will, as we always have, embrace school closure as a glass half-full and optimistically continue to embrace every facet of the original premise of charter schools as a positive innovation.



Washday Wednesday: A Win-Win Strategy to Support Reading at Home Pamela Haldy Superintendent Richfield Public School Academy


t Richfield Public School Academy we provide educational services to urban families who live in poverty and who have chosen our school because they want their child to go to a safe school that has a strong academic program, with a caring and devoted staff. Our families often have their water service disconnected, do not have washers and dryers in their homes, and struggle to provide clean clothes to send their children to school in. Knowing that this issue affected many of our families, I decided that the laundromat was the perfect solution to support these parents and it would give us a captive audience to share learning strategies for them to support their child. We all know that being in the laundromat is analogous to being captured for 35-40 minutes, with nothing to do but wait, as the washing machine does its job. An ‘ah-ha’ moment


created a vision for engagement and Washday Wednesday was born. It was a simple and clear idea: Let’s invite parents to the laundromat to do their laundry, at no cost to them, soap and softener included and take advantage of the 35 minute wash cycle, while they are a captive audience. We would submerge them with academic strategies to support their child with reading skill development. The simplicity of the program made it very easy to implement. We located a laundromat to partner with and bill us monthly for the costs of washing and drying. We personally invited the parents of students who received Tier 2 Reading Support. We used Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) and NWEA’s Rausch Unit (RIT) scores to select these students. We explained reading level data to parents as they waited through each cycle. Parents were asked to state their expectations for their child’s reading growth, set goals for home support, and commit to this program for a 10-week session.

During the washing time parents were introduced to research based reading strategies. Our highly skilled intervention teachers developed activities and games to make it easy and fun for the parents to implement at home. They provided leveled books for reading at home, modeled several ways to use the activity (at home, in the car, while waiting at the doctor’s office, etc.) so parents could optimize the use of the strategy. They gave parents recommendations for the appropriate amount of time and number of sessions per week for optimal effect. Each week parents received new strategies, complete activity kits, copies of books, and a goal and feedback sheets for the upcoming week’s activities. It all came out in the Wash: A win-win for parents and our school as well. We were supporting our families with the basic need of providing clean clothes for their children. They supported us with one of our most desirable needs as a schoolparental commitment and expectations for their child’s learning.

Washday Wednesday Agenda 1

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5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13



Sign In

Please Start Your Laundry

Coffee and Snacks While Reviewing Agenda

Data Discussion

Parents will receive current data on assessments for their child (Ed Performance Reading, AimsWeb, DRA) Intervention Teachers will hold Q&A regarding data.

Parents will receive A-Z Books with demonstration for practice reading at home.

Parents will receive list of learning apps and websites and a demonstration Parents will receive a demonstration on how to do fluency reads with their students. Parents will have a “make and take� activity for a reading strategy to do at home

Parent Expectation Statement (goal setting for support) and documentation discussion. Questions and Suggestions

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17 18 19

20 21



_____________________________ parent(s) of _____________________________________

How Often (daily, weekly)

Minutes per session

Goal Met (date/ time)

Feedback: What do you need to support you with a strategy?

Strategy I will Use

Goal Not Met

I am committed to supporting my child at home and will hold myself and my child accountable to practice strategies that will support him/her in reading.

3. _________________________________________________________________________________

2. ________________________________________________________________________________

have the following expectations for my child’s learning and education: 1._________________________________________________________________________________


Title I-Wash Day Wednesdays-Parent Reading Support Program Parent Expectation Statement and Goal Sheet


Of the People, By the People, For the People

Leslie King Teacher Michigan Collegiate High School


have been a charter school teacher for twelve years now, working in the suburbs of Detroit. Although we are not a traditional “public” school, many times our fates are intertwined with that of the local school districts. There is no better example of this than the recent turmoil in Detroit Public Schools. Since the majority of our students are bused in from the city, we paid close attention to the pending legislation to “bail out” the district. Our superintendent would forward us “call to action emails” in which we could send a prescripted letter to our legislators and

job we have signed up to do, when I received one of those “let your voice be heard!” emails, I filled it out and submitted it. I received a few responses and form letters back from Governor Snyder and other various representatives saying they received my email and “heard” my opinions. However, I still felt like I was just one of the masses, and the legislature would do what it wanted whether it was what I wanted or not. Then one day, I was driving home from school when the phone rang, with an unfamiliar (but semi-local) number. I answered it, and to my surprise House Representative Anthony Forlini was on the other end of the line. He had been on the receiving end of one of my form emails, and was calling me…from the

“It was an awesome experience to have such an informal ‘chat’ with my elected representative” representatives. Because the caveats included in the bills being discussed would directly impact my school (and others like us) and our ability to continue doing the important

House floor…to discuss my feelings and opinions on the bill. I could hear much chatter in the background, as if he was calling from a stock exchange trading floor. We talked for


about thirty minutes on my drive home, about everything from my opinions about DPS to my work in a charter school. I was finally able to tell someone in power about all the great things I think we are doing to educate the students who come to us every day, and the struggles we face working with an urban population (much like DPS). He was truly interested in hearing my opinions and what I was hoping would happen with the bill they were currently debating. It was an awesome experience to have such an informal “chat” with my elected representative—and feel like he was actually listening! The next morning I awoke to the news story about how a bill had been passed

in the wee hours of the morning. I now understood why I had received a phone call at four o’clock in the afternoon—they had been just getting started! I realized that I might have directly impacted how my representative had argued for/against components of this bill. Our history teachers spend twelve years teaching us about our government and how it works, but I had never experienced the “of the people, by the people, for the people” so up close and personally before. It made me realize that our representatives are just people too, and that some can put their personal agendas aside and really be in this job to be “for the people.”

YOUR POTENTIAL As authorizer of more than 70 charter schools across the state, the Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office not only provides high quality K-12 options for more than 33,000 students, but also offers Michigan teachers 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 than 40 different professional development topics totaling over 200 workshops • Workshops offered in Grand Rapids and Detroit • State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECH) available at almost every workshop See schedule and register at or call (616) 331-2240.

Leslie is entering her twelfth year teaching English at Michigan Collegiate. She strives every day to provide an engaging and relevant learning experience for all her students, preparing them for the rest of high school and beyond. She is also an active member of the School Improvement Team and is chair of the English Language Arts Data Team.

Taking a Half Step in

Decision Sense-Making Dr. Jay Kulbertis Superintendent Gladstone, Rapid River Schools


here is a really intriguing paradox that exists in education. It’s a paradox I’ve spent my whole career as an educator trying to understand but more importantly trying to work within, often against the norm. As educators, we embrace the uniqueness of each student. We tend to challenge standardized testing because we know all too well that some of the measures of student progress can’t be captured by a test. We encourage students daily to push themselves outside of their comfort zones and to trust their ability to apply new knowledge. And, while we know there is a risk that despite their best attempts they may not yet get to the intended outcome, we encourage them anyway because we recognize this step as a fundamental and essential part of learning. As educators, each day we, too, are presented with opportunities to apply new knowledge and to learn from the experience. Be it new research or a new technique shared by a colleague, there is never a shortage of ideas. We all know too well that there is no space for complacency, as students throughout Michigan deserve our best effort in meeting their educational needs. However, we tend to err on the side of the status quo, and avoid taking any real risks to improve our educational institutions. At the same time we are encouraging our students to take risks, we are steadfast in avoiding it. How do we overcome this paradox? How do we better model the behaviors we are asking of our students? How do we accept vulnerability that comes with risk in the hope that it will change a student’s life? Let me introduce you to the “half-step.” The half-step is a strategy I have embraced and promoted within my districts. It was born out of the challenge that I observed to be true about human nature and decision making. It’s the observation that we tend to see things in black and white. It’s all or nothing, success for failure.

“At the same time we are encouraging our students to take risks, we are steadfast in avoiding it.”



Failure is dangerous professionally and emotionally. We avoid making a change until we are absolutely sure it will be successful, but this day never comes because nothing in the profession of education is guaranteed. There is any number of reasons that a decision is not made. Perhaps the outcome is unsure, or it is too much of a risk, or the circumstances are not ripe for change. The half-step is a way to get some forward motion, break from the way things have always been done, but not bite off too much too soon.

“As educators, we hold the future of our students in our hands.” The half-step approach is my way of managing high-stakes risk, focusing on perceived risk involved, which is most always greater than the actual risk. It moves the process of decision-making to what I call sense-making. Decision-making is often an emotional process that assumes an individual has all of the answers. Then, once made, the decision is supported and defended, regardless the outcome. Sense-making is just as its name suggests. It’s embracing a new approach because it just makes the most sense, at this time, with the best information we have. It’s your gut supported by all of the data and research available to you. As circumstances or


information change, you are prepared to add that to the equation. The only parameters around the half-step is that it’s a preliminary step in the direction you are most-likely headed. Once you take this step, tracking data will guide the way. If your sense-making yields accurate, you will eventually start to pick up steam, involve more people, document success, and build on your results. If your sense-making proves to not make much sense at all, you adjust and re-strategize. You recover with having evoked no more harm on the students than having done nothing at all. You see, with the half-step, using sense-making as your guide, there is no real risk. As educators, we hold the future of our students in our hands. And, that future only comes alive if we are leading innovative approaches to support our students in academic success that we can’t yet imagine. But, nobody is going to give us permission to do this. Even more, current structures might even deter us from change. Leading innovation takes courage and passion. It takes professionalism and creativity. But, most importantly, it presents the greatest opportunities for success to the students we serve. Jay Kulbertis has served in the role of superintendent for nearly 10 years. Under his leadership the Gladstone and Rapid River school districts have modeled innovation to create solutions that meet the unique needs of a rural population.

Believe in the to



All learners deserve the chance to be their very best. With Imagine Learning, you can give your students the individualized curriculum, direct instruction in reading comprehension strategies, and ongoing assessment they need to read at grade level and achieve success in the classroom and beyond. Dr. Sydney Jordan | 313.318.6627


Action Areas

Intervention Tool



eering into the windows of libraries, viewing student artwork in hallways and listening to the chatter in the back of classrooms gives you a sense of a school culture almost immediately. Witnessing the interactions amongst students and teachers in any school can give an educator a unique perspective of reflection and growth. Principals, teachers and aspiring leaders were able to experience some of the most innovative, high-performing charter schools across the nation through MAPSA’s experiential trips with TEAMS grant participant schools. The purpose was multifaceted. We wanted teachers and leaders to witness the innovation that is happening around the country, be inspired to move their school from “good” to “great,” and get off of the island that many charter teachers and leaders feel they are on. But most importantly we wanted to provide exposure to schools that, despite having everything stacked against them, met and beat those odds with vigor and intention. On every trip, a small team from each participating school interviewed leaders, sat in on classrooms, and observed facilities. Some leaders were a strong force, with even stronger personalities. Others were quietly consistent. Many of the classrooms had deliberate and firm structures and processes, while others focused on exploration and freedom. Some buildings, like those in New Orleans, were brand new, gleaming with promise and enticing students through the doors. Others were in old churches, modular buildings or shared spaces. Despite these differences, there was a consistency at each school. Each leader was firmly embedded as an instructional coach; every teacher knew what the school’s mission was; every student knew what was expected of them both academically and behaviorally. From New York to New Orleans, innovation looked different. From Boston to Washington, D.C., models varied. But in each school we saw a passion and a focus on collective outcomes and an attitude that anything was possible. Here are the experiences of a few people who joined our trips, and how they were inspired to beat the odds in their own schools.



Gina Vermiglio-Wood District Administrator Conner Creek Academy East

and part of the school family just when walking around the halls by seeing motivational quotes and student pictures. I decided that our schools could use some of these “motivational” strategies for the upcoming school year.

his past spring I had the unique opportunity to visit several inner city schools in New Orleans. First, I was happy to see that a recently rebuilt district with substantial financial resources was choosing to utilize the same interventions, strategies and frameworks as we do in Michigan.

At Conner Creek Academy East and Michigan Collegiate, we are in the process of adding large student quotes to our walls. We are also printing large photos of our own students to display. Our students have always been the focus and forefront of our school community.  We thought other students could access the feelings of pride and success of past and current students using the form of art in our school. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity MAPSA provided to visit NOLA. I hope


I was also motivated with the passion I felt from the educators in the school. They are going above and beyond their means to provide a safe and healthy place for these students.  I left New Orleans feeling sad with the amount of poverty there was present in the city, but motivated that even under extreme circumstances, this city rebuilt a thriving school system.  One of the many aspects of the NOLA schools that I loved was the culture and décor. I felt immediately welcomed


to get to visit more inner city schools across the nation throughout my career so we can continue to learn from each other and make life-long connections for the better of today and tomorrow’s youth.

trip. I did find out that we experienced an unusual tour because not all of the schools we visited were high performing. All were making positive gains toward high performance, but were still in transition. We visited SWCP College Prep in New Orleans; this school is not high performing, but has improved from grade F to grade C in the past 2 years.

Rebecca Thomas Reading Specialist Eaton Academy


his January, I was given the opportunity to attend the MAPSA New Orleans Tour. I learned some wonderful and inspiring things from this

The first year’s focus was school environment and procedure. The new principal worked to ensure the staff worked as a team to enforce, with fidelity, school policies and procedures. If students were not doing something correctly, they had to go back and do it again. She also modeled staff behavior and if staff was not doing something correctly, they had to go back and do it again. This is something that we are working to implement in our school for the upcoming school year. We have been meeting and planning together to work toward continued positive growth at Eaton Academy. This will be a great step to improve achievement across the school because they experienced academic growth hand-in-hand


with the environmental growth. Another visit was Collegiate Academies. They allowed honor roll students to wear a red uniform shirt instead of the usual light blue. The students worked to get this because it gave them options they would not be allowed otherwise. We have been discussing options to encourage students to focus on academics and this seems like a great option for our school. Another visit was Einstein Charter School. One impressive aspect of this school was their strong community presence! They worked with families to identify and aid in fulfilling needs and making sure they are a strong presence in the community. The students were confident and showed they felt safe in the school environment by openly interacting with us when it was appropriate. Another great aspect was that they believe in every student! The founder stated that “There is no reason my students cannot succeed. They are smarter than any other group of students and they prove it every day.” It was evident students had a strong sense of self and their abilities. This was an inspiring and reinvigorating personal takeaway for me. I believe in all of my students but may not be vocalizing my views and I have been working on improving so my students are more aware of my belief in them.


Kathleen A. Allan Teacher Eaton Academy


n Boston, there were several eye-openers that were seen consistently in the charter schools we visited. The first was that all the charters were self managed. There wasn’t a middle entity between the State and the schools. This allowed some latitude in implementation of procedures that would allow for immediate results at the school level. Secondly, the number of personnel available to work with students in small groups at different times throughout the day appeared to be a very effective tool in closing learning gaps of students. In many cases, those doing the tutoring were young college graduates that were acquired through programs created with the local universities.  In addition, the pay structure for the teachers was competetive with that of traditional public school employees, which greatly increased the pool of teachers that applied for open positions.  It appeared that staff members worked well as cohesive teams,


which contributed to lower teacher turnover. Each school had a positive behavior support system that was implemented schoolwide. In some schools, this program was run as a merit/ demerit system.  This appeared to decrease the number of behavioral issues.  Finally, the hallways in these schools were filled with displays of student work that exemplified the creative levels of learning occurring. At Eaton, we were able to focus on implementing a Positive Behavior Support system which is evolving each year and has contributed to the decrease student write ups. In addition, many bulletin boards were added through out the building, which has allowed for the display of student work which has increased student pride in

their work as well as as allowed parents and visitors to get a better feel for the educational approach at Eaton Academy.

Damian Perry Executive Director, Founder Detroit Student Advocacy Center


here is not a school leader who does not wish for the success of his or her community of learners. But unfortunately it is often difficult to have a living example of what that success looks and feels like. During the Spring of 2013 I was humbled, amazed, and honored to be shown living examples of success demonstrated by high academic achievement, positive school culture, engaged staff members, involved parents, and students who were exceling

academically and socially. Thorough the MAPSA Teams grant my school leadership team and other leaders were able to visit several schools in Boston which served students in urban areas which share many of the characteristics of schools throughout Metropolitan Detroit. These charter schools welcomed the Detroit delegation with open arms, allowing us to visit classrooms, ask questions, take pictures and interact with staff members and parents alike. We were able to see first hand teachers who were differentiating instruction, walls that talked, data displayed and owned by students, and positive behavior interventions and supports that effectively made students responsible for their own classroom discipline. As a leader witnessing these things first hand it allowed the team and me to bring so many of these great school changing initiatives right back home to present before the staff as a whole and literally tweak and implement at our school. This seed helped us to create better instructional cycle models,

integrate stronger systems of assessment and datamonitoring processes, create and introduce PBIS programs such as a token economy and last but not least create a fundraising model which netted the school over $75,000 and led to the creation of a new school library. Without the trip none of these things would have happened or been possible for our school. For me attending the leadership excursions in Boston, New York/New Jersey, and New Orleans helped me know and realize that success in urban charter schools was possible. Lastly these trips allowed me to form relationships with school leaders in a way that was not possible before our trips. Many of these relationships have blossomed into life long friendships and provide me an opportunity to have a local think tank to share ideas and experiences with. My experiences with this team of educational professionals have made me a better leader for my students, parents, and staff.


harter school leaders and teachers often talk about being on an island. Our goal with the TEAMS experiential trips was to take teachers and leaders off the island. Participants were able to identify a little bit of their own schools and their own story in the hallways of schools around the country. There were vast differences between the schools we visited and the schools in Detroit. Most of the schools we visited had higher per-pupil expenditures; many had newer school buildings. Some had access to school nurses and psychologists. But all of them had something in common with the participating TEAMS schools. Each had a clear vision, purpose and focus that were prominent throughout all aspects of the school. In the end participants were motivated to implement change in their schools, reminded of what they are doing well, and encouraged to continuously search outside of their classrooms and schools for inspiration.



Innovat Trauma-Informed Schools This is the first blog post in a series that will uncover the social-emotional support systems needed in schools to support students who are exposed to trauma and stress. All schools and teachers have worked with children who have experienced trauma. The first step for any school or teacher to become trauma-informed is to understand who experiences trauma in your building and why, and how it impacts learning. Visit for the part two.

Johnny appeared to be tense at school today and had a difficult time following directions. When redirected, it felt like he almost shut down. He didn’t really engage in the classroom and seemed anxious as he watched the clock for most of the day. Johnny hasn’t eaten dinner in 3 weeks. He spends most days after school in a constant state of stress, worrying about whether his mom’s boyfriend is coming home and witnessing the abuse that constantly takes place or waiting anxiously to hear the next gun shot outside his bedroom window. Last month his 6-year-old cousin died in a drive-by shooting and his uncle died of a drug overdose. Last year his older brother was sent to prison, where his

dad has been for the past five years. Johnny sleeps most nights on a cardboard box in top of a high rise as his mom works tirelessly cleaning the cubicles into the wee hours of morning. And on nights his mom is off work, he shares a pull out couch with three other cousins. Johnny often stays at different homes throughout a given month and has no consistent schedule outside of school. Yet, when Johnny arrives at school the next morning, he is expected to follow instructions, stay in his seat, listen, stay engaged, answer when spoken to and bubble in his assessment answer sheet. He has no diagnosed learning disorder or disability. He has no Individualized Education Program (IEP) created

tED Blog and receives no additional supports outside the classroom. Johnny is quiet most of the time however; he has been suspended twice in the last year due to outbursts that ended in a fellow classmate being injured. It doesn’t matter if Johnny is 6 or 13. The impacts of stress and trauma are the same. Johnny’s story is often too common in most classrooms. Students in urban cities like Flint and Detroit are more likely to live in unsafe neighborhoods, be exposed to violence, and have unstable and transient living arrangements and are more likely to experience food insecurity, be abused, or witness abuse.

In May, 2016 the American Academy of Pediatrics declared poverty as one of the biggest health issues facing American children as it influences brain development through constant exposure to “toxic stress, a condition characterized by ‘excessive or prolonged activation of the physiologic stress response systems in the absence of the buffering protection afforded by stable, responsive relationships.’ Children living in poverty are at increased risk of difficulties with self-regulation and executive function, such as inattention, impulsivity, defiance, and poor peer relationships. Poverty can make parenting difficult, especially in the context of concerns about inadequate food, energy, transportation, and housing.”

“Everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. Nine times out of ten the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry, it will break your heart.” - Annette Breaux


TB e a c h e r s


e More In teresting

Than a Ce l



Keeping St


Engaged Ronald Brown Teacher Taylor Preparatory High School


tudent engagement is one of the most important parts of teaching, right up there with building relationships and setting effective routines. What makes it so important is that an engaged student is a thinking student. All too often students just do instead of think. Students will sit at their desk taking notes or solving problems and the whole time not think once because they are doing the work out of routine or to not get in trouble. As teachers, we want students to actively participate and learn by asking essential questions and think

of before, such as appealing to their interests, creating hands-on activities, and giving them choices to complete an assignment. There is another very simple way that teachers tend to forget. HAVE FUN! Have fun? That sounds easy, but at the same time also sounds somewhat hard to achieve. The fact is both are true: having fun in the classroom is easy and hard to do. The easy part should be creating a lesson that is fun. We are teachers, which means we have been to numerous workshops and PD’s all aimed at giving us teaching tools for our toolbox. Use these tools, put yourself in the mindset of your students, and just be creative. The bottom line is if your lesson is something you enjoy and see the fun in, students will too. The hard part is realizing that once a lesson is over, it perhaps was not as fun as you thought it would be. A great teacher always wants their lesson to be amazing and a complete success. However, a great teacher also can accept failure and learn from it. It is perfectly fine as a teacher to try something fun, see it fail, and then reassess the lesson for next year. Failure is actually a beautiful part of teaching because it reminds us as teachers that we always have the ability to create better and more engaging lessons. One off the wall strategy I use to keep students engaged and have fun is I create characters that I act out. Two characters that students love and go crazy for are Sensei Brown and Pastor Brown. When I am teaching linear functions, Sensei Brown comes to life. He is a karate instructor who wears a tie around his head instead of a black belt around his waist. He bounces around to warm up, bows to the class, and then punches forward with his fist prior to moving it up and over to show students how to plot a y-intercept before rising and running with the slope. Pastor Brown is a sharply dressed man decked out in a suit and tie complete with a towel on his shoulder because he gets so hot and worked up in front of the classroom. He has his students stand up, testify to the math spirits above, read from the Book of Algebra, say a short prayer about remembering to put thy parentheses around thy negative values, and then clap and dance along to his quadratic formula hymn. Do I look like a complete fool as I act out these characters? Of course. Do I feel totally embarrassed and ridiculous? Absolutely. But do I care about any of that? Heck no. The only question I care about is, were my students engaged? And the answer to that one is, of course! They are so engaged that months after I teach the lesson, they still call me Sensei Brown and Pastor Brown because they had so much fun from the lesson. When you have all of your students standing up in your classroom doing karate moves or singing and dancing to a song,

“Tell me and I forget; Teach me and I remember; Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin things through, which is what engaged students do. “But how do I keep my students engaged?” This is a question that is always on the mind of the modern day teacher. With social media, cell phones, video games, and countless other technological avenues at the fingertips of students today, it is very hard to capture their minds day in and day out. There are tons of ways to keep students engaged that teachers have heard

that is the definition of engagement. Not one student is sitting down. Not one student is standing still. They are all up, out of their seats, and having fun. What more could a teacher ask for? Ronald Brown has been teaching for six years and in May 2016, Ronald was honored as the Michigan Charter School Teacher of the Year. He believes that once a teacher becomes aware of a student’s personal and educational individuality, that teacher can achieve great things with any student.



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Thomas E. Ackerson Executive Director LifeTech Academy

an opportunity to see the staff ’s view of their own role as defined by themselves, a view that can be quickly forgotten as once powerful teachers are swamped by the dayto-day of administration.

The Challenge.

With the goal of connecting each and every member of the Academy staff with the vision and mission of the school, we started with the simple question;

“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” “You don’t know what it’s like in the real world.”

“Why am I here?”

This evident disregard for the professionals that are charged with shaping our future is disheartening at best. As a public school academy, it is well understood that a cultural shift is needed to begin to break the mold and open up possibilities for teachers. To this end, LifeTech Academy sought guidance and training to build a staff of professionals with a greater sense of self-efficacy and self-worth through a process of self-definition. The Idea. Employing one of our strengths in creating partnerships with the business world and business-minded individuals, the leadership team turned to leadership skills delivered from one of the Dale Carnegie Training courses, Leadership Training for Managers. For employees, it was a tie to the oft spoken of “real world” that so many had been told that they did not know and understand. For the leadership team, it was

The Process. In a matter of two minutes, ask each member of your team to list out everything they do to contribute to their response to “why”, one at a time, on sticky notes. Next, ask each individual to sort the sticky notes into groups and create a name for each that personally carries meaning to them as an individual. Furthering the process, the individual staff members can create a personal plan for growth and development in their own passion areas that they own and maintain. For the leadership team, however, the best is yet to come. We now have personalized job descriptions from multiple points of view from which we can then parse new job descriptions for new postings. The benefits of these peer created job descriptions have proven themselves out in attracting vibrant, talented professionals who come to the Academy knowing the challenges of the


job, the freedoms of the job, and the responsibilities that attend those challenges and freedoms. We, the leadership team, get an invested, growing, and accountable community of Learning Facilitators that continuously challenge themselves to be a better self. These exercises in self-definition have created an engaged workforce who is committed to themselves, their students, the academy, and the community. The swagger of knowing what your role is in the bigger picture and knowing that you had a hand in creating that place is a constant, immeasurable boost in morale and energy. LifeTech Academy is Michigan’s Cyber School. Serving grades 7-12, the public charter school is tuition-free for all Learners. With a goal of making education interesting and relevant to each individual, LifeTech partners with businesses and non-profits to provide unique learning experiences in a project-based learning environment. For more information, please visit or call 517-3255469. LifeTech Academy is an Engaged Education School. Engaged Education, Inc. is an educational service provider specializing in creating positive and engaging working and learning environments. For more information, please visit www.engageded. net or call 517-333-7075.




"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



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Charter Connect Fall 2016  
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