Charter School Partners

givemn_icon   twitter_icon Home  |  Contact

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


NACSA Authorizer Accountability study calls for MN law to include the closure of lowest-performing charters/New CSP Authorizer Scatterplots released

Published by . Filed under Authorizer Accountability. Total of no comments in the discussion.

ON THE ROAD TO BETTER ACCOUNTABILITY:   An Analysis of State Charter School Policies  

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 11.40.24 AMLast week, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) released a first-of-its-kind policy analysis which describes, state by state, which state-level policies promote quality and accountability among charter schools and their authorizers.

On the Road to Better Accountability: An Analysis of State Charter School Policies divided states into three different categories and then ranked the states. Minnesota was one of five states identified as having ‘multiple authorizers’.  It received 20/27 points based on seven criteria, ranking second to Indiana among the five states (See Minnesota specific report here).  Two other categories included ‘district authorizing states’ (17) and ‘states with few authorizers’  (21). Eight states have no charter law.

The one area in which the report said Minnesota clearly lacked accountability was by not having some sort of  ‘Default Closure’ for charters who fail to meet minimum academic standards, receiving zero out of a possible six points in that category.

 Study’s recommendation on closure reflects CSP’s policy efforts

The study’s recommendations echo CSP’s call to close down the state’s chronically lowest-performing charter schools. A previous blog outlined our efforts in the last legislative session. Senator Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) sponsored legislation that would ‘flag’ some of the state’s lowest-performing charters and shine a light on the lack of academic success, empowering authorizers with more flexibility to deal with these failing schools, and closing them when warranted.

We argued that a policy of empowering authorizers to more easily close the state’s lowest performing charters would:

* Inoculate the charter community from its vocal critics who would seek anti-charter policies because of perceived failures of specific schools or the sector itself,

* Assist authorizers who have faced difficulty closing down persistently low-performing charters including potentially providing additional legal cover in case of a closure, 

* Provide families and children with more quality school choices (as more high-impact charters open, grow, and replicate), and, 

* Free up additional facilities and good teachers to work in successful schools.

Here is the Star Trib’s editorial Hold Charter Schools fully accountable endorsing Senator Bonoff’s bill from last legislative session as well as an Op-Ed supporting the closure policy by CSP’s Al Fan and Alex Medler, VP for Policy and Advocacy with NACSA.

Recommendations from the Report 

The recommendations of last week’s NACSA report included the following:

“Minnesota should continue to focus on implementing and executing a strong authorizer review and evaluation process in 2015 and beyond. The number of active authorizers in Minnesota presents challenges for school accountability, as charter applicants and schools can engage in either forum shopping to be approved or authorizer hopping to avoid closure. Minnesota should explore requiring performance frameworks and establishing a state policy on default closure to ensure that closure is expected outcome for persistently failing schools.”

“In addition, Minnesota will have appropriate instances of acceptable schools seeking new authorizers as the number of authorizers decreases. Nevertheless, the state should strengthen its charter school transfer provisions to prevent authorizers from inappropriately facilitating forum shopping or authorizer hopping by weak schools.”


CSP RELEASES NEW 2013/2014 TWO-YEAR COMPOSITE:  Minnesota School Ratings by Authorizer


Charter School Partners today released new scatterplots and charts that show how Minnesota’s largest authorizers’ (only authorizers who authorize more than five schools) schools are performing academically.  This data utilizes the 2013 and 2014 two-year composite of the state’s Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) from the state’s annual assessments (MCA’s) for Grades 3-12.

2013-2014 CSP ‘Scatterplots’ released: solid gains, ongoing concern for low-performing charters

Published by . Filed under 2014 State Assessment Tests. Total of no comments in the discussion.

CSP today released its yearly set of  ‘scatterplots’, charts showing where most charter schools in the state rank utilizing the 2013 and 2014 two-year composite of the state’s Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR), which is data from the state’s annual assessments (MCA’s) for Grades 3-12. In addition, Minneapolis and St. Paul charter school scatterplots are put alongside their district counterparts. 

In broad terms, the scatterplots tell us three things:

1. More and more charters are among the top public schools in the state: 57 charters, or almost 40% of all charters in the state, are ranked in the upper right hand quadrant (60th percentile or above, which correlate to Reward and Celebration Eligible categories in the MMR ranking). This, along with the two-dozen other schools clustered near the top rankings, is a substantial improvement over previous years. (CSP will be releasing more in-depth analyses of the MMR in the coming weeks and months detailing this academic improvement).

2. There is a very strong group of charters successfully serving low-income, students of color in the urban core: As the yearly Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Beating the Odds chart illustrates, a group of charter schools, particularly in Minneapolis and St. Paul, are successfully serving low-income, students of color. In Minneapolis alone, a dozen charters serving low-income populations are either in or very near near the upper right hand quadrant. Only three MPS District schools can make that claim.

3. There continues to be a consistent group of chronically low performing charters that do not seem to be improving: There are 38 charter schools, representing 19% of charters in Minnesota, that are persistently in the lowest 15% performing public schools in the state (Priority or Focus Schools ).  One caveat: at least a quarter of these schools (such as the High School for the Recording Arts) primarily serve students who are “at-risk” for not graduating from high school. These include students in credit-recovery programs, those with special education needs, adjudicative youth, or older immigrant children who recently arrived in the U.S. as English language learners. (There is no “alternative school” designation for charter schools in Minnesota law).

CSP has an ongoing commitment to present relevant and user-friendly data. The scatterplots are just one way we do that.  We will be releasing additional research on this year’s MMR and other data on an ongoing basis.





Background: MMR

In 2011, the Minnesota Department of Education released its first Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) system as part of the federal waiver from the NCLB. The multiple measures include proficiency, growth, achievement gap reductions, and graduation rates (for high schools). While this rating did a better job showing the impact schools are having on students than just basic proficiency and growth metrics, there were clearly some anomalies and single-year fluctuations that seemed to impact smaller schools, which included many charter schools.

To Commissioner Cassellius’ and MDE’s credit, the department sought input from a group of charter school representatives, including CSP, asking how the measurement could be improved to more accurately reflect charter school ratings. The October 1, 2014 release of the MMR information incorporates these changes .The MMR numbers also represent a two-year composite (2013 and 2014) utilizing the new formulas.

Al Fan: Ouch! Minnesota charters ranked 16th in new ‘Health of the Charter Movement’ report

Published by . Filed under Culture of Reform and Achievement. Total of no comments in the discussion.
Al Fan

Al Fan

Lost in yesterday’s flurry and news of the release of state test scores by the Minnesota Department of Education was a first-of-its-kind report analyzing states based upon the quality of their public charter school movements.  

As the nation’s charter pioneer and a state use to having number one rankings each year for the nation’s best charter law, being rated 16th in anything charter (by the same folks who consistently rate Minnesota the number one best charter law) is, well, a little sobering. (Here’s StarTrib reporter, Kim McGuire, blogging on the report). 

A proud Minnesota charter advocate might wish to discount this report, call it an outlier, or blame the methodology as being a bit off.  But The Health of the Public Charter School Movement: A State by State Analysis, released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, does raise some issues we at Charter School Partners have focused on over the last several years, including the need to raise the bar on the quality of all Minnesota charter schools.

The study, which is a companion to the National Alliance’s annual rankings that evaluates each state’s charter school law, ranks the ‘health” of the public charter school movement in 26 states, including the District of Columbia. It utilizes 11 different measures to determine how well a state’s charter schools are performing, innovating, and growing. Washington, D.C. and Louisiana topped the list while Nevada and Oregon found themselves at the bottom of the rankings. Minnesota was ranked 16th.




The Minnesota section of the report was not in itself damning and suggested “that there is sometimes a time lag between policy changes and the impact of those changes”. The report stated that “we are optimistic that the overhaul to the state’s public charter school law in 2009 will yield stronger achievement results as more current data become available”. Todd Ziebarth, Senior VP of State Advocacy and Support at the National Alliance, echoed that sentiment in a panel discussion on October 1 about the report, stating that Minnesota (and Nevada), have perhaps the greatest potential to show rapid growth in performance, innovation, and growth of any other state.

The 11 measures included in the study, each of which have an individual weight, include:


1. Public school share

2. Public school student share

3. Students by race and ethnicity

4. Students in special populations (i.e., free and reduced-price lunch status, special education status, and English learner status)

5. Schools by geographic distribution

6. Communities with more than 10 percent of students in public charter schools

7. New public charter schools opened over the past five years

8. Public charter schools closed over the past five years


9. Public charter schools reporting use of various innovative practices (i.e., extended day, extended year, year-round calendar, independent study, school-to-work, and higher education courses)


10. Additional days of learning in reading

11. Additional days of learning in math

Finally, the report recommends that to increase the impact of the state’s charter movement, the state should enact policies that Charter School Partners has been advocating for many years, including providing more equitable funding to charters, particularly addressing the large funding disparity between District and Charter Schools (34.7% in Minneapolis and 23.4% in St. Paul); promoting the creation of innovative new schools; encouraging the replication and expansion of existing successful charter schools; and ensuring authorizers are closing chronically low-performing charter schools.

So we do welcome this report, not as a definitive statement about the Minnesota charter community but as another data point and perspective. It shows the need for continual improvement and more urgency and focus around growing, replicating and improving the state’s charter schools.

CSP awarded $200,000 Bush Foundation ‘education eco-system’ grant

Published by . Filed under Bush Foundation, CSP's Charter Innovation Initiative, Culture of Reform and Achievement. Total of no comments in the discussion.


Minneapolis, MN. 10.1.14. Charter School Partners was awarded a $200,000 Bush Foundation grant for its initiatives and innovations in the education arena.

 The grant, announced yesterday, is one of 12 given under a new effort by the Bush Foundation dubbed, Education Ecosystem Grants, which according to Kayla Yang-Best, the foundation’s education director, “supports organizations that help create the most favorable environment possible for education initiatives to succeed and to reduce disparities and improve education outcomes.”  Foundation president Jen Ford Reedy added “this new, open grant program lets us provide much-needed funding for work essential to an effective ecosystem.”

The Education Ecosystem Grants offer operating support to organizations that provide critical data and analysis, advance policy and public awareness, and/or shape and spread best practices in education.

“We are very grateful to the Bush Foundation for its support of Charter School Partner’s efforts to innovate within the charter community through our many initiatives including incubating new charter schools and charter leaders and advocating for higher expectations and performance in charter schools, ” said Al Fan, Executive Director of Charter School Partners. “Innovative, high-performing charter schools is a key ingredient to improving educational options for all Minnesota kids”. 

For more information, see the Bush Foundation announcement here.

Here is a complete list of the recipients, each of which has been awarded $200,000 over two years:

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

Published by . Filed under Beating the Odds!. Total of no comments in the discussion.

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

Published by . Filed under Charter school facilities, Charter-District Cooperation. Total of no comments in the discussion.

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. 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’s new expansion

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. Cornerstone Montessori, 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.

Lakes International Language Academy's new

Lakes International Language Academy’s new Headwater’s Campus will serve grades 4-6

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

Published by . Filed under Chris Barbic, Culture of Reform and Achievement, Partner Tuesday Events. Total of no comments in the discussion.
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

Published by . Filed under District/Charter Funding Disparity. Total of no comments in the discussion.

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

Published by . Filed under Federal charter legislation. Total of no comments in the discussion.

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!

Published by . Filed under MinneapolisSchoolFinder. Total of no comments in the discussion.

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.