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Michigan News (CMU): S&P Charter School Reports Online

Central Michigan University Demonstrating Accountability And Oversight Of Its Charter Schools


New York—April 24, 2003—Standard & Poor’s today released its second round of analysis of charter schools authorized by Central Michigan University. Individual reports for all the CMU schools are available online at www.ses.standardandpoors.com.

The analysis, conducted by Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services for the Central Michigan University Charter Schools Office, represents the second of three annual reports and includes data for four consecutive school years (1998-99 to 2001-02). Schools authorized by CMU—the largest university authorizer in the country—enroll about 25,000 students in 37 cities and towns. CMU authorizes 56 of the 190 charter schools in Michigan.

“By commissioning Standard & Poor’s to conduct this objective analysis, Central Michigan University is demonstrating its commitment to setting the gold standard for charter school accountability,” said James Goenner, executive director of the CMU Charter Schools Office. “Standard & Poor’s data provides a valuable tool for schools to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and it also serves as a way for parents to fully research their educational options and exercise school choice.”

CMU commissioned Standard & Poor’s to provide analyses of the academic and financial performance and progress of the charter schools it authorizes. In addition to the annual reports, Standard & Poor’s provides other analytical services to CMU and its schools, such as site visits, administrative reports, and data-management tools.

Standard & Poor’s work on behalf of CMU represents one of the most comprehensive analyses ever conducted on charter schools. Each report analyzes academic and financial performance of each school, using several benchmarks: the CMU average, the local district and state averages, and the school’s progress over time.

The reports are unique in that they measure schools’ progress toward the goals they established in their charter contracts. This measure takes into account the student circumstances particular to a school and is one tool used by Central Michigan University in its comprehensive contract renewal process.

Standard & Poor’s most recent analysis of the 56 schools revealed several key findings, including:

Academic achievement at CMU schools varies significantly by grade level and subject. While
there is room for significant improvement, some schools are making noteworthy progress.

--Average passing rates on all 2002 state tests taken by students at CMU schools were below the state average. Of the CMU schools’ student population, 44% are economically disadvantaged. Furthermore, about 40% of CMU schools serve more economically disadvantaged students than their local school district, while about 55% of them serve more economically disadvantaged students than the average school in the state.

--However, 14 CMU schools outperformed their local school district on 2002 state tests in at least half the tested grades, yet they spent $1,500 less on average per-student than the district.

--Of 42 schools, 26 demonstrated improvement on the grade 5 writing test. Only three of 11 schools improved on the high school math test during the period analyzed.

--Four CMU schools in 2002 “beat the odds” in at least one grade by having above-average passing rates and participation, despite enrolling above-average levels of economically disadvantaged students: Academy of Southfield, Colin Powell Academy, Old Redford Academy, and Morey Charter School. Colin Powell Academy also beat the odds in 2001.

CMU schools on average have far fewer resources than local school districts. While finances at some CMU schools are stable, other schools have considerable debt.

--On average, CMU schools in 2002 received $1,000 less per student than their local school district.

--Financial operations in most CMU-authorized charter schools are comparatively balanced and characterized by operating surpluses, adequate and growing reserve levels and manageable debt. However, 13 have considerable debt burdens, which could limit their financial flexibility.

Teacher turnover is declining, fewer teachers have emergency permits than in past years and nearly 20% have master’s degrees.

--Teacher turnover in CMU schools declined from 31% in 2001 to 19% in 2002.

--The average teacher employed in CMU schools has almost six years of experience, two of which are in his or her current school. Almost 20% of the CMU teachers hold a master’s degree.

--The percentage of teachers with emergency permits decreased from 32% in 2001 to 23% in 2002. Moreover, 18 CMU schools in 2002 reported having no teachers on staff with emergency permits. (Data for making state comparisons was not available from the state at the time of analysis, but it will be included in future reports.)

Demand for charter schools is high, and parental involvement is an important community asset.

--Enrollment at CMU schools has increased by 21% since 1999, with all but nine schools experiencing growing or stable enrollment.

--More than 1,100 children are on the waiting lists of CMU-authorized charter schools, while almost 5,000 new student applications were received during the enrollment period for the 2001-2002 school year.

--Parental involvement at CMU schools is strong. The average attendance rate at parent-teacher conferences was 86% in 2002, with 30 schools at or above 90%.

“Since we issued our first CMU reports last year, the Charter Schools Office has demonstrated that the use of objective analyses can foster accountability and strengthen oversight of charter schools,” said William Cox, managing director of Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services. “These latest reports can help serve as the basis for constructive dialogue and informed decision-making.”

Dave Fredericks, school administrator at New Branches Academy in Grand Rapids, said the report on his school would serve multiple purposes. “It is great to have all this information at our fingertips. We plan to use it to let families know more about the school,” Fredericks said. “The trend information will help us to better understand demographics, serve our students’ needs and measure academic achievement.”

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Click here for Facts at a Glance: CMU charter school perfomance on Michigan Educational Assessement Program tests. MEAP Performance

Note to Editors: The reports prepared for Central Michigan University were prepared independently of the public school analyses that SES conducts on behalf of the State of Michigan. To view the individual charter school reports, visit “What’s New” on the home page of www.ses.standardandpoors.com. All the information on Michigan schools can be found on the website and is available to the public free of charge.

About Standard & Poor’s Standard & Poor’s, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE:MHP), provides independent financial information, analytical services, and credit ratings to the world’s financial markets. With 5,000 employees located in 19 countries, Standard & Poor’s is an integral part of the global financial infrastructure. For more information, visit www.standardandpoors.com. Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services provides the education community, public officials, business leaders, parents and taxpayers with objective analyses on schools. The information is available free of charge at www.ses.standardandpoors.com, and is designed to help users make informed decisions that will improve school performance and management. Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies is a leading information services provider meeting worldwide needs in education, business, finance, the professions, and government. The corporation employs 16,500 people located in more than 320 offices in 34 countries.

About Central Michigan University Central Michigan University is the nation’s foremost university authorizer of charter public schools, expanding a tradition of leadership that started in 1892 when it began educating teachers. Founded more than a century ago as a teacher’s college, Central Michigan University has evolved into a doctoral/research public university that is ranked among the best in the Midwest. CMU provides its growing student population with modern facilities and technology, faculty who are dedicated to student-centered teaching and research, and a selection of more than 200 programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, specialist’s and doctoral levels. For additional information on the Central Michigan University Charter Schools Office, please visit their Web site at www.cmucso.org.