University provides help for youth through charter schools

By Kevin Graham

The Office of Public School Academies and Urban Partnerships has a mission to support charter schools through effective leadership and ensure accountability through performance testing, according to its website.

According to the National Education Association, a charter school may operate outside certain rules defined for other local public schools and instead operate according to the terms of a specific contract.

Mildred Taylor, director of the PSA office, said Oakland University has contracts with 10 charter schools in Oakland and Wayne counties, with the authority to work with schools in Macomb if the Board of Trustees were to deem them a good fit.


How it works

Taylor said when evaluating a school for potential partnership, there are a number of factors to consider.

“Those factors include having people who are qualified to lead the school, the financial situation is one that they can carry out the operation of the school,” she said.

Once a school has been evaluated and deemed a good fit for possible partnership, it must be approved by the Dean of the School of Education and Human Services, and then it must go to the university provost. The school’s charter must also be approved by the Board of Trustees. Following approval, OU’s role becomes one of oversight to make sure teachers are highly-qualified, according to Taylor.


Caniff case study

One of OU’s newest charters, Caniff Liberty Academy in Hamtramck, opened its doors in September and is run by Education Management and Networks.

EMAN was recently under scrutiny by the Detroit News for running schools that fall below the 33rd percentile for proficiency.

This  ranking is considered passing for schools with a low-income base, according to advocacy group Education Trust-Midwest.

Ahmed Saber, president of EMAN said the study fails to account for the special circumstances of the students they serve.

Saber said 100 percent of students at Oakland International Academy in Detroit, which is the school referenced in the article, qualify for the free school lunch program coming from an impoverished area. In addition, more than 75 percent of OIA students are English language learners.

Caniff is similar in that it has a high population of students who are learning the English language.

“We did not charter them anticipating any potential problems,” Taylor said. “We felt this was a situation serving potentially underserved students that are largely English language learners.”

In order to combat the population where English is a second language, about 90 percent at Caniff, EMAN Chief Academic Officer Jefferson Hamlin said the school is keeping class sizes small, employing teachers and aides who are bilingual and applying an approach where teachers follow the students as they progress through grade levels.