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2800 University Ave S.E, Suite 202
Minneapolis, MN 55414


Star Tribune: Charters dominate ‘Beating the Odds’ list for 2014

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Twin Cities charter schools dominated the list of public schools who are having the highest impact for low-income students, based on the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s 2014 ‘Beating the Odds’ list which was published today.  Nine out of 10 schools cited for the highest Math scores are charter schools and eight out of 10 of the highest Reading scores are charter schools.  Congratulations to the schools who made the list!  Here is a complete list of the test scores for each school.

While this ranking reflects the great work of the schools that are listed, we recognize that there are many other schools that are also successfully serving their students but are not reflected in today’s rankings.  The ‘Beating the Odds’ list only measures ‘proficiency’ and not ‘academic growth’ and other measures that will be a part of the state’s Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR), which will be available early October.

While there is most certainly a correlation between high proficiency scores and high growth scores, often proficiency scores alone do not tell the complete story. The goal at the end of the day is to have high proficiency scores for all students, yet there are many schools who serve populations that enter the school several years behind grade level. In that case, a high-impact school may be able to make significant gains in ‘growth’ (say, 1.5 to 2 years of growth in a single year), yet still may post relatively low proficiency scores for a period of time.

In addition, this list only includes schools that have 85% or more low-income populations. There are a number of schools–district and charter–that have significant low-income populations, even majority low-income populations, that are successfully serving their populations, yet will not be reflected in this list. Again, a more in-depth analysis can be made with the release of the MMR data in October.

Here are today’s newspaper articles on the release of state standardized test scores known as the MCA’s.

Achievement gap persist in statewide MCA test scores; slight improvement overall.  MPR News.

Minnesota student performance on proficiency tests holds steady, with some modest gains.  St. Paul Pioneer Press

State standardized tests show little change; achievement gap persists. Minneapolis Star Tribune



The 2014 Star Tribune 'Beating the Odds' list.

Minneapolis Star Tribune. August 26, 2014

Quality charter expansion in the Twin Cities. New and expanded facilities for CSP Partner Schools!

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It seems the new school year has brought an unprecedented number of program and building expansions for Minnesota’s highest performing charter schools. In our view, this trend reflects a very positive development in the Twin Cities charter community–great charter schools are growing and serving more families and students!

District/Charter Collaboration between MPS and Mpls charters

Most notably, this year there are now five former Minneapolis Public School (MPS) buildings that house high-performing charter schools. Hiawatha Academies second elementary school–Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop has moved into the old Northrop Elementary building in South Minneapolis. (Previously, Hiawatha Academies had acquired Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park as well).  Best Academy Middle School has moved to the Lincoln Community School building in North Minneapolis; and KIPP Stand is now housed in the renovated Shingle Creek Elementary School at 5000 Oliver Avenue North.

KIPP Stand's new campus in North Minneapolis

KIPP Stand’s new campus in North Minneapolis

For several years,Yinghua Academy has occupied another former MPS District building, the old Putnam School at 1616 Buchanan Street in NE Minneapolis. Yinghua has just completed the final phase of building expansion that will accommodate a full capacity enrollment of 700-800 students.

Yinghua's new expansion

Yinghua Academy

Except for Best Academy (which is leasing from MPS), the four other buildings were sold to the schools or development organizations that manage charter school buildings. Credit MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson and the MPS Board for their willingness to partner with high-performing charters to better serve Minneapolis students and families.

Additional charter expansion

Twin Cities German Immersion School

Twin Cities German Immersion School

Elsewhere, the Twin Cities German Immersion School has expanded and renovated the former St. Andrews Church in the Como Park area of St. Paul. The three-story existing building has been renovated for use as classroom and administrative space and the former church sanctuary has been redeveloped as a cafeteria, gym, auditorium, and other classroom space. Lakes International Language Academy (LILA), Forest Lake, opened its new Headwaters Campus which will serve Grades 4-6. Like previous LILA building projects, the Headwaters Campus incorporates innovative environmental and sustainable building design.

Lakes International Language Academy's new

Lakes International Language Academy’s new

In addition, Cornerstone Montessori, which is housed on the campus of The Montessori Center of Minnesota on St. Paul’s East Side, has added two beautifully designed building modules to its campus and St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists (SPCPA) has continued to expand its presence in downtown St. Paul by adding additional space in the Lowry Building.

In 2013, Nova Classical Academy moved into a newly built facility off St. Paul’s West 7th Street and Woodbury’s Math and Science Academy and St. Croix Preparatory Academy, Stillwater, both had expansions to their buildings. Meanwhile, Cologne Academy, Cologne, has executed a five-phase building expansion since the school opened in 2008, adding additions in 2010, 2011, 2012. The last phase, a 33,000 square foot expansion, will open in Fall 2015, which will include a gym and theater.

Each of these projects are examples of thoughtful, responsible, and cost-effective ways in which Minnesota’s best public schools are delivering quality educational environments to its families and students.

Achievement School District luminary, Chris Barbic, in the Twin Cities for CSP annual Partner School breakfast

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Chris Barbic

Chris Barbic, Superintendent of the innovative Tennessee Achievement District, was the keynote speaker for CSP’s annual Partner School breakfast attended by over 100 participants in late June at the Como Zoo.


National/Minnesota report finds charter school funding gap with district has widened–particularly in Minneapolis/St. Paul

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The University of Arkansas today released a national study, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, which included a separate Minnesota report, on the growing disparity in funding between district and charter schools.

Just as the national funding gap has grown between district and charter schools over the period of the three studies, Minnesota’s gap has also increased and in the case of Minneapolis and St. Paul district and charter schools, the increase has been dramatic.

Specifically, Minnesota charters receive $1048, or 8.4% less than Minnesota district schools. However, more disturbingly, Minneapolis charters received $6,381 less than Minneapolis district schools, a 34.7% difference, and St. Paul charters receive $3793 less than St. Paul district schools, a 23.7% difference. This increased disparity seems to be primarily due to the local levy/referendum in both cities.


                         STATEWIDE            MINNEAPOLIS                   ST. PAUL 
District               $12,476                        $18,370                        $16,015
Charter              $11,429                        $11,988                        $12,223
Difference            $1,048                         $ 6,381                          $3,793
%of District         (8.4%)                        (34.7%)                          (23.7%)

Addressing the inequity with MPR News, CSP’s Al Fan said:  “The one gap in funding has always been the inability of charter schools to have access to the property tax funded dollars, both the operating levies and the bond money. I think we should look at taking some of the property [tax] dollars that are being allocated to operating levies and reallocating that to charters, especially the highest performing charters.”


                                  FY 2003                     FY 2007            FY 2011
Statewide                  -2.4%                          -1.5%                    8.4%
Minneapolis               -15.5%                        -21.1%                 -34.7%
St. Paul                     -9.1%                          -13.4%                 -23.7%

This study is a follow-up to a 2003 Fordham study and a 2007 Ball State study. Though they are from different institutions, the research leaders are the same as the two previous studies, so there is a consistent methodology over the three studies.



Rep. John Kline announces new federal charter legislation at two Minnesota charter schools

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Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, came to two top Minnesota charter schools yesterday to announce new legislation to strengthen the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP). The bipartisan bill is expected to be introduced with Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) this week. Mr. Kline was joined

by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) and the National Association of Charter School Authorizer (NACSA) CEO and President Greg Richmond , who toured Global Academy in Columbia Heights, and Aspen Academy in Savage. (EdWeek news story).

Rep. John Kline

(from left to right) Global Academy’s Melissa Storbakken and Helen Fisk; Rep. John Kline, Rep. Luke Messer, Al Fan, and NACSA CEO & President Greg Richmond, visiting a classroom at Global Academy, Columbia Heights.

We at CSP were very excited and honored that Rep. Kline announced this national initiative right here in Minnesota and to have the opportunity to showcase Minnesota’s quality charter community. Over a dozen Charter School Partner school leaders joined the two events and participated in roundtable discussions with the congressmen and Mr. Richmond about the future of the charter movement nationally and in Minnesota. (MPR news story).

Charter School Program (CSP) legislation: ‘The Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act’

The bill essentially is carved out of the stalled reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary and Education Act’s (ESEA) Charter School Program. The initiative will encourage more comprehensive facilities support, more funding for the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools, and increased funding for charter schools as a whole.

Specifically, the bill authorizes the CSP at $300 million a year, with 15% of this amount slated to facilities (Credit Enhancement grants and State Facilities Incentive grants), 75% for the State Education Agency (SEA) grants, and 10% for National Activities grants.

• Charter support organizations (CSOs) can apply:  this bill expands the eligible entities for SEA (State Education Agency) grants broader than the SEA to include a state charter school board, a governor, and a charter school support organization.

• Authorizes SEA grants for replication and expansion: This would increase flexibility for states to allow grants to be used for the opening of new charter schools, the opening of replicated, high-quality charter schools, and the opening of expanded, high-quality charter schools.

• Use of funds: The bill would broaden the allowable use of funds. It includes language that specifies that funds may be spent to support “opening and preparing to operate” a charter school. The intent of this language is to capture a broader range of implementation costs.

The congressmen and Mr. Redmond met with over a dozen Charter School Partner school leaders at both Global Academy and Aspen Academy in engaging roundtable discussions about the future of the charter movement in Minnesota and the U.S.

Rep, Kline, Rep. Messer, and Mr. Richmond met with over a dozen Charter School Partner school leaders at both Global Academy and Aspen Academy in engaging roundtable discussions about the future of the charter movement nationally and in Minnesota.

• Separate CMO program: Authorizes a CMO Replication and Expansion (R&E) competition within the National Activities section of the bill. In the bill draft, funding for National Activities is increased to 10%, from 5% in current law. Of this pot, 75% of the funds must be spent on CMO R&E activities and to award grants to non-SEA grantees. Under this structure, and assuming funding at $300 million, funding for CMO and non-SEA grantees would range from $16.875 million to $30 million.

Rep. Kline with students at Global Academy

Rep. Kline with students at Global Academy

• Weighted lotteries and feeder patterns: The bill includes language that protects the U.S. Department of Education’s recent changes to the weighted lottery non-regulatory guidance. It would allow for the use of feeder patterns in the admissions process. CSP launches new website to help Minneapolis parents find the best schools!

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iphone-preview-1Minneapolis, MN. 2.27.14. Charter School Partners today launched a new website that will assist Minneapolis (and surrounding area) parents to find the highest impact public school for their child.

(Here is a link to today’s MinnPost article on the launch).

“CSP has consistently heard from Minneapolis parents how difficult it is to know of all the public school options available in the city and to really know how well the school performs academically”, said Al Fan, Executive Director of Charter School Partners. “We created this website because parents deserve an easy way to find and access information about a school’s academic performance when starting the journey to find the right school for their child”.

According to Fan, offers parents the only online site in Minneapolis to show all public schools, both district and charter, and how well they are performing academically.  The easy-to-navigate site utilizes the state’s Multiple Measure Rating (MMR) data for each school and translates it into an easy-to-read School Rating that will help parents quickly see and compare the academic performance of schools to each other.

The school rating, which includes proficiency, growth, as well as how each sub-group of students are performing, uses a three year average of the MMR to rate schools on a scale from 0-100. It further divides the schools into High Impact Schools (green), Medium Impact Schools (yellow), Low Impact Schools (red) as well as New Schools (blue).  It will also provides a mission statement and additional contact information for high impact and new schools to make it easier for parents to find information on these options.

CSP believes that every child deserves the same high quality education regardless of their race, family income, or the neighborhood they live in. High impact schools in Minneapolis are demonstrating this is possible and that all children can learn at the highest levels.

“Academic results are critical and have not until now been readily accessible,” said Fan. “But we also recognize the unique needs of the individual child and other factors are also important when choosing a school.  We hope parents will use the additional information on this site to find the school that is the best fit for their family.”

Fan said that the site could be expanded in the future to include St. Paul and the Greater Twin Cities region as well.





CSP’s 2.0 legislation to target underperforming charters gets a boost

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CSP’s Charter 2.0 legislative initiative to address chronically low-performing charter schools by empowering authorizers to move more quickly to shutter failing schools got a boost this week by two highly placed news stories.

Sen Terri Bonoff

Sen Terri Bonoff

On Monday, MPR News’ Bill targets underperforming Minn charter schools, outlined Senator Terri Bonoff’s (DFL-Minnetonka) legislative efforts to focus on addressing the lowest-performing charters. “The measure wouldn’t automatically close a bad charter school, but it would make the school’s authorizer explain why it should be kept open (and) it really does place a great deal of attention on these underperforming schools,” said Bonoff on MPR. (The MPR Radio audio news story is linked in the above article).

Today, the Star Tribune editorial board wrote a powerful editorial Hold charter schools fully accountable: If they cannot educate kids they should be closed, supporting Senator Bonoff’s and CSP’s efforts. “Some schools in Minnesota and across the country have done an extraordinary job with challenging populations of students. However, in too many programs, kids are doing as badly or worse than they did in traditional schools. That’s why proposals to intervene and close charters that aren’t doing the job merit consideration.” The editorial also praised successful charters.

“There are, however, a number of success stories. Harvest Preparatory schools in Minneapolis, for example, have been highly praised for their impact on lower-income African-American students on the North Side of Minneapolis. After several years, many of their students are closing the achievement gap and outperforming peers from similar backgrounds. Because of that success, Harvest Prep is now working in a partnership with the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) to try to have more impact across the city by bringing its programs to public schools. That’s exactly how the charter concept was supposed to work. Groups of teachers, parents or nonprofits organize schools around a different approach to learning. When innovative approaches work, they should be used as models for other schools”.

MACS, CSC oppose the legislation

In the 2013 legislative session, CSP’s bill made it to the final conference committee, however, it did not make it into the final education bill, in part because of the opposition of several individuals and groups within the charter community itself, including the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools and the Center for School Change. We believe the opposition is shortsighted and that this proactive initiative will do several positive things. It will

  • Inoculate the charter sector from the efforts of vocal charter opponents such as Myron Orfield and others,
  • Empower good authorizers to move more quickly with failing charters (as well as provide them additional legal cover to be proactive),
  • In the case of an authorizer who is not doing their job, yes, put some additional pressure on them to justify keeping a particularly poor performing school open,
  • Encourage families to move their children to higher performing schools, and,
  • Free up additional facilities and good teachers to work in successful schools.

To improve the long-term viability of the charter sector in Minnesota, we hope MACS and CSC will reconsider their opposition to this initiative

CSP’s consistent focus on quality

At the beginning of the 2013-2014 biennium, CSP’s Al Fan and Alex Medler, VP of Policy and Advocacy for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, penned an editorial in the Twin Cities Daily Planet Close poor performing charters to create better choices for low-income kids. In it they wrote: “Closing chronically low-performing charters and providing solid educational options for all Minnesota children is the right thing to do. Let’s have the courage to move forward with this bold initiative as a public service to Minnesota’s least-served children”.

Finally, here is a Pioneer Press op-ed from Al Fan from back in 2011 on the same subject — Churn: a tough-love policy toward poorly performing schools, which shows how consistent CSP’s position has been on this issue.


MPR News. Bill targets underperforming Minn charter schools. 2/10/14.

Star Tribune: Hold charter schools fully accountable: If they can’t educate kids, they should be closed.  2/11/14.

Twin Cities Daily Planet: Close poor performing charters to create better choices for low-income kids. 3/7/13.

Pioneer Press:  Al Fan: Churn – a tough-love policy toward poorly performing schools. 8/26/11.



New National Rankings Find Minnesota Charter School Laws Top the Nation in Quality

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Here is yesterday’s news release from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, announcing that Minnesota’s charter law ranked number one in the nation. CSP’s Executive Director Al Fan is quoted in the release. Here is Education Week’s story on the report as well.



WASHINGTON, D.C. – Minnesota’s charter school laws are ranked number one in the nation, according to an annual state-by-state ranking of charter school law quality released today by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The report ranked Minnesota first out of 43 states, including the District of Columbia, that have charter school laws. Minnesota also held the first-place ranking last year.

Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws ranks each of the country’s state charter school laws. Each law receives a score based on 20 essential components from the National Alliance’s model law on metrics such as quality and accountability, equitable access to funding and facilities, and no caps on charter school growth.

“This year’s rankings reflect the advances we’ve seen in so many states over the past year,” said National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees. “This annual ranking is an important barometer for measuring changes in charter school policy. States are increasingly aware of the impact their charter school law has on providing students access to high-quality public school options and we are encouraged to see so many improving their laws.”

Even though Minnesota received the highest ranking, the state still only received 75 percent of the report’s total possible points. The report concludes that Minnesota policymakers can further strengthen its law by focusing on providing charter schools with equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

“While there’s still plenty of work to do, this rating reflects well on Minnesota’s bi-partisan consensus that chartering is a valuable part of Minnesota’s public education system,” said Joe Nathan, PhD, director of the Center for School Change. “The strong law also is helping encourage greater collaboration among district and charter educators with the bottom line rightly focused on helping more students succeed.”

“Minnesota can be proud of its number one ranking,” said Al Fan, executive director of Minneapolis-based Charter School Partners. “Now we need to take the charter sector to the next level of quality. We have many great charters in the state but there are still far too many low-impact charters. We need to either quickly improve these low-achieving schools, and if we can’t, close them. Charter School Partner’s closure bill will make Minnesota charter law even better.”

In 2013, 12 states made improvements that led to an increase in their scores in the report, including partially or entirely removing caps on the number of charter schools allowed, strengthening authorizing processes and improving support for charter school funding and facilities.

“Despite these many improvements, there is still work to be done,” continued Rees. “As the highest-ranked state, Minnesota still only received 75 percent of the total points. We hope these rankings will continue to encourage lawmakers to improve their laws and support better environments for charter schools in each of their states.”

One of every 20 American children now attends public charter schools. More than 6,000 schools are teaching more than 2.5 million children. Eight states still remain without a charter school law: Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia.

About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit our website at

CSP’s response to Myron Orfield

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We had several positive responses to last week’s blog post, Minnesota Charters 2014: Part 1: Building a high-impact charter sector. Closing the opportunity/achievement gap. However, Myron Orfield, who heads up the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity (formerly the Institute on Race and Poverty), took great issue with the blog.

Mr. Orfield asked us to retract the portion of the blog that mentions his October 2013 IMO Charter Study, apologize on our website for misrepresenting the study and to print his response to the blog on our website. While we are certainly not obligated to do so, given that Mr. Orfield already publicly published his response, here it is (the entire study is also linked in his response).

CSP’s response

In responding to Professor Orfield’s concerns about the blog, CSP’s Al Fan wrote the following:

In reviewing the substance of the January 6th blog itself, we essentially stand by our comments regarding the IMO study. First, as you noted, the blog does not address the many other issues that were raised in the study. It was not intended to. We only touched on the section, “Charter Schools Don’t Perform as well as Traditional Public Schools”.

In your email (also included in Mr. Orfield’s public response) you stated, “most importantly, the post implies that our work does not properly control for the fact that charters serve higher percentages of low-income students. This is simply not true. Our work shows that charters still under-perform their traditional counterparts even after controlling for the effects of school poverty rates on reading and math performance.” 

While I don’t believe CSP’s blog directly challenges this statement, an October 12, 2013 comment on Contract for Student Achievement’s Facebook page, incorrectly implies that the IMO study did not incorporate controls for school poverty — and that is certainly something we’d be glad to clarify on the Facebook page and the blog post.

As stated in the blog, CSP’s major issue with the methodology of the study is not that the multiple regression analysis was flawed or that you didn’t incorporate poverty, but that the study used ‘proficiency’ that equates all students in poverty across the seven county metro. We don’t believe the proficiency data alone gives the full picture. Schools that are getting astounding growth with students years behind may never show up in the study because of the use of proficiency.

That is why the blog stressed an apples-to apples comparison of MPS district schools and Minneapolis charters — which uses MDE’s MMR criteria that incorporate proficiency, growth, closing-the-gap criteria — and for high schools — graduation rates (we acknowledge that the MMR data is not without its own issues and could be open to some changes in the future). As you know, we at CSP have put out yearly data charts regarding performance of schools and ‘growth’ is something we have always incorporated.”

Bottom line, we do believe that the 2013 IMO Charter Study is flawed because how it incorrectly compares the Twin Cities region of district schools to charter urban schools, which have a much higher percentage of FRL and ELL populations.  Also, given Mr. Orfield’s long held and very public opposition to charter schools, CSP and Mr. Orfield clearly have a difference of opinion about the potential of the charter sector in Minnesota.

We welcome an ongoing and constructive debate with Mr. Orfield and others about these and other issues that will ensure all children in Minnesota have access to the best schools.

Minnesota Charters 2014: Building a high-impact charter sector. Closing the opportunity/achievement gap

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Since CSP’s launch in May 2009, our goals have included increasing the number of high-performing charters in Minnesota with a special emphasis on increasing the number of low-income students being served by high-performing charters.

To achieve these goals, CSP’s strategic framework has focused on a multi-prong strategy including incubating and launching new high-impact charters, replicating high-performing schools, working with good and great schools to help make them even better, and the closing of chronically low-performing charters. Over the past few years, very real and solid progress has been made in each of these four areas — progress that is now quantifiable and showing increased momentum.

CSP Overview 11_12_13CREDO Report: Substantial improvement in the charter sector

According to the Stanford University June 2013 National Charter School Study CREDO Report, charter schools in Minnesota have shown substantial improvements from 2008 to 2011 in reading and math and now surpass their peers in district schools in annual learning gains for reading in the state.  Particularly stunning, was the improvement for the newer charter schools not included in the 2009 CREDO report.  The chart below reflects that these new schools have made gains of 21 days of learning for math and 42 days of learning in reading compared with their district counterparts.


“The (CREDO Study) outcome suggests that poorly performing charter schools are closing in Minnesota, and being replaced with new schools that produce superior results. Al Fan, executive director of Charter School Partners, which advocates for high-quality charters, said the data reflect the emergence of gap-closing, high-quality charters such as Global Academy, Hiawatha Academies and Harvest Prep.”       Star Tribune. June 24, 2013

The report, which repeatedly mentioned Minnesota as a state showing great improvement in its charter sector, concluded that the “enrollment and persistence in charter schools is especially helpful for some students, particularly students in poverty, black students, and English language learners all of whom post significantly higher learning gains in both reading and math.”

Beating the Odds Charters

For several years running, charter schools top the Star Tribune’s ‘Beating the Odds’ list, where eight of ten schools most effectively closing the opportunity/achievement gap for the state’s low-income student are charters. Even opponents of charter schools, most notably Myron Orfield, who heads up the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity (formerly the Institute on Race and Poverty), stated in the IMO’s October 2013 study ‘Charters in the Twin Cities’ that:

there is a group of roughly a dozen high-poverty charters exhibiting pass rates significantly better than expected, and for the most part, better than their tradition counter-parts. This group, not very evident in the 2007-08 analysis but beginning to coalesce in the 2010-11 charts, represent a class of schools that are important given the significant achievement gaps that exists in the region (and the state) between white students and black students. Research on why they are succeeding is clearly needed”.

The anti-charter IMO study suggests that these ‘Beating the Odds’ schools are somehow an anomaly, however, Charter School Partners focus is on launching and replicating these high-performing charters. In fact, as the IMO report suggests, these high-impact schools were not very evident in 2007-08 but now there are about a dozen of them today serving low-income students.  In 2013 alone, Charter School Partners helped launch six new potentially high-impact charters serving families from the Twin Cities urban core. CSP’s five-year goal is to increase the number of close-the-gap schools from 12 (today) to 32 –just in Minneapolis alone.

Do charters really underperform district schools?

The Orfield study also restated that charters continue to underperform compared to their district counterparts. Given that charters serve almost twice the number of low-income and special-education students, this is technically true. However, the study does not tell the whole story nor does it acknowledge or properly document the quality strides charters have made in the last several years.

The biggest flaw in the IMO’s report is that it only uses proficiency as a measure of academic performance. Generally, this measure serves as a snapshot of the students in the school rather than an indication of the effect the school is having on the students. As a result, the measure favors schools with higher populations of white/middle income students while ignoring schools that are getting high levels of growth from their students that may not have reached proficiency.

Minnesota charter schools do serve a higher population of low-income and special-ed students and given the importance of closing the achievement gap, the Orfield study mentions, but does not reflect, the impact that high-achieving charters are having on these critical populations. Also, because the study compares schools in the urban core with schools in the suburbs, it does not reflect compelling data that show charters in Minneapolis and St. Paul are significantly outperforming district schools and providing a better education for families in their particular neighborhoods.

Minneapolis district/charters data 

Recent state test scores (which now reflect proficiency, growth, closing the achievement gap and graduation rates — not just proficiency) shows significant academic improvement in the Minneapolis charter school sector. In fact, Minneapolis charters can now boast that 42% of its schools are in MDE’s Reward or Celebration Eligible categories (top 40 percentile of all public schools in the state. Reward Schools=top 15 percentile; Celebration Eligible Schools=the next 25 percentile) versus 11% for the MPS district schools. Conversely, 29% of Minneapolis charters are in the lowest 25 percentile of all public schools in the state and a staggering 60% of MPS District schools are in the lowest quartile of all public schools in the state.

MinneapolisFY13MMR.FRDataThis is further illustrated by the two separate charts below which shows a school-by-school breakdown for both sectors. The first graph shows all charter schools in Minneapolis and the second all MPS District schools. Note that in the charter graph, most of the high-performing schools in the upper right hand corner serve a majority of low-income students (blue diamond). Conversely, the schools in the district chart that get the best academic results are exclusively in the more affluent white southwest corner of Minneapolis.

CSP Overview 3


CSP Overview 4


Taking the charter sector to the next level

Recently, the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools released its 2013 charter market share report in which it documented that charter school enrollment has grown both nationally and in the Twin Cities, with Minneapolis and St. Paul for the first time having more than 20% of all public school students in charter schools. As charter school advocates, we are of course buoyed by this. However, more important than the sheer number of students in charter schools, is that these students are in high-impactful, high-performing schools — which as noted above is at the core of CSP’s focus and mission.