WMU News

Charter school evaluation reveals major impact, unmet expectations

February 18, 199

KALAMAZOO -- Michigan's charter schools are making a substantial impact on their public school competitors but use few innovative practices and have not yet achieved the goals state legislators had in mind when they approved their creation three years ago.

That's the conclusion of a statewide study of Michigan charter schools just completed by researchers at Western Michigan University. The study is one of two such studies commissioned by the Michigan Department of Education and conducted between October 1997 and December 1998. The study was presented to the Department of Education at a Feb. 18 meeting in Lansing by Dr. Jerry Horn and Dr. Gary Miron, both principal research associates with WMU's Evaluation Center, who conducted the study and prepared the report.

"As a form of choice, an opportunity for visionaries to develop schools with considerable promise and as a viable competitor for the regular public schools, the movement is having an impact," says Horn. "However, as a laboratory for innovation and a demonstration of exemplary instruction and educational programming, there is still much to be accomplished."

The WMU study covered 51, or about half, of Michigan's charter schools in existence at the time the study began. Public Sector Consultants Inc. of Lansing conducted the second study, covering charter schools in Detroit and Southeast Michigan.

The following conclusions are among the WMU study's major findings about charter schools, also known as public school academies:

Report co-author Miron notes a number of other issues surfaced during the study that deserves further attention. They include a number of legal issues, questions surrounding service to special needs students and concern about charter schools segregating students according to race, class or ability.

"Clearly there are some potentially strong PSAs with potentially bright futures but, at the same time, there are PSAs facing major challenges and the expectation of success is quite limited," Miron says. "There are strong PSAs and there are weak PSAs-a situation not dissimilar among traditional public schools."

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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