Charter Schools Office works to implement authorizing practices

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Julie Moore's 6th grade science class - fully furnished by the GVSU Surplus Store

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Julie Moore's 6th grade science class - fully furnished by the GVSU Surplus Store

Alyssa Rettelle

Recently, the Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office was recommended for accreditation by a third-party review team, AdvancED. Since then, the Charter Schools Office and AdvancED have been working together to make charter schools and authorizers accountable nationwide.

Timothy Wood, the director of the GVSU Charter Schools Office, was pleased that AdvancED determined that their authorizing practices were based on the best practices of authorizers, and he’s pleased now to be working as a team.

“Going forward, we’re working to have an authorizer accountability statute placed in Michigan legislature, and we’d like the AdvancED accreditation model to be the basis for that statute,” he said. “Additionally, the AdvancED people will be taking that particular model that Grand Valley piloted and taking it throughout the country for other states to adopt as a model for authorizer accountability.”

Wood said the GVSU Charter Schools Office is currently working with AdvancED to tweak some of the language in the process so that the statute is applicable not only to Michigan, but also nationally.

“Over the course of the next year, the eight other university authorizers will be going through that same process,” Wood said.

The bill has been written in draft form but has yet to be introduced to the legislature, Wood said. He is hoping that they will hold hearings on the bill and that, within this year’s session of the legislature, the statute can get through.

Last month, the AdvancED external review team spent four days reviewing the university’s Charter Schools Office and portfolio of schools. They evaluated resources of utilization, teaching and learning and leadership capacity, student performance, continuous improvement, strategic plans, an index of education quality and more.

AdvancED determined that Grand Valley’s Charter Schools Office met and significantly surpassed average results for the evaluation process. That evaluation process included extensive document review and interviews with more than 120 stakeholders at GVSU and its authorized schools.

“The accreditation really informs the general public that Grand Valley is following a set of recognized best practice standards, that our authorizing practice is engaged in what people around the country believe to be the best practice in authorizing,” Wood said.

Wood said GVSU is the first authorizer to go through the AdvancED accreditation process and that the GVSU Charter Schools Office serves 32,000 students and assists those schools with teacher professional development training to assure the states that the schools are compliant with state and federal laws.

The GVSU Charter Schools Office is in its 20th year as a charter school authorizer and it has been successful since its beginnings, according to its website. In 1993, the university committed to chartering schools after Michigan became the ninth state to enact charter law. GVSU opened three schools in 1995 and had authorized 16 schools by 1998.

In 2000, GVSU President Arend D. Lubbers received the annual Plachta Award from the Michigan Association of Public School Academies for excellent work with charter schools. By 2004, the Charter Schools Office authorized 25 schools, serving over 7,000 students. In 2009, the Charter Schools Office moved to its current location – the Grand Valley Bicycle Factory in downtown Grand Rapids – and by 2010, it served nearly 20,000 students in 40 schools, including Michigan’s first virtual charter academy.

AdvancED is the largest community of education professionals in the world. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts rigorous, on-site external reviews of Pre K-12 schools and school systems to ensure that all learners realize their full potential, according to its website. It serves as a partner to 32,000 schools and school systems, employing more than four million educators and enrolling more than 20 million students across the United States and 70 other nations.

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