Charter See MEAP Improvement

February 1, 2008
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LANSING — Charter schools have shown an improvement in their Michigan Education Assessment Program scores.

Jim Goenner, executive director of the Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University, said most of the academies chartered by CMU showed improvement on their scores from 2005 to 2007.

Initially, MEAP scores were low, Goenner said, explaining that when a school starts —with a new staff and administration — test scores are going to be low.

“The longer we’re open, the better the scores.”

Charter schools are semi-public institutions supported by state aid instead of tuition. They can be chartered by local school districts, community colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations.

Some students, he said, come to charters at a disadvantage. They are generally a grade level behind where they should be.

“Most of the schools are out-performing their public school district peers,” Goenner said. He added that minority students in the academies are performing better on the MEAP than those in public schools across the state. CMU, the first university in Michigan to charter academies, has the highest amount with 58. There are a total of 232 charter schools in Michigan.

Ed Richardson, the executive director of the charter schools program at Grand Valley State University, said students in GVSU schools also are performing better than local districts. Of the 28 schools chartered by GVSU, students at 21 outperformed surrounding school districts, he said.

Richardson said the university makes a composite comparison of MEAP scores.

For example, he compares test scores for Ridge Park Charter Academy in Kentwood with those of the Grand Rapids and Kentwood school districts because the charter has both Kentwood and Grand Rapids children attending. The scores tell him how well the students are doing in comparison with their local counterparts.

In Lansing, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz Academy’s fifth-grade class showed a significant increase in test scores in 2006 over 2005, according to department of education MEAP test results. Math scores showed that only 27 percent of the 22 students who took the test met state standards in 2005. The writing, English, science and reading sections had numbers around 50 percent. The next year, the math score rose to 40.7 percent, and the other sections were at 60 percent and above.

Fifth graders at Willow Elementary School, a public school in Lansing, showed a trend reverse. With the exception of science, the number of students meeting Michigan standards dropped between 2005 and 2006. At Willow, 29 percent of the students met writing standards, 48.4 percent met science and English standards, and 40.6 percent met math standards. However, 61 percent of the students met the standards in reading.

In 1994, when universities began chartering schools, advocates argued that institutions of higher education would get involved in the elementary and secondary learning process and improve it.

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