Michigan's bright future depends on new school innovation

Dan Quisenberry
Feb 22, 2019 10:45:00 AM

Everyone knows that one of Michigan’s most urgent challenges is creating an education system that Michigan families deserve, and that our future requires. That system is certainly built on continuing to implement rigorous state achievement goals - both for students and educators.  However, achieving that bold vision also requires new thinking about schools; finding the exciting, new 'hidden gems' of instruction, leaders and campuses. In simple terms, it requires innovation.

Exceptional education outcomes for all kids can only come with real variation in approaches to delivery; schools that meet the unique and diverse needs of students, families and communities throughout the state. That diversity can only be met if we throw out the idea that one classroom is the best fit for every learner - we know it's simply not true. If every child is going to have an equal chance to succeed, we need to push the envelope and envision a future where there are enough opportunities and classrooms to meet those diverse needs.

Innovation, good old American ingenuity, is the solution. And that’s what Michigan charter schools do for Michigan’s public education system now and into the future.  Charters offer opportunities to create new pathways for students and communities, not just after high school but throughout their educational experience. Michigan charter school options offer that opportunity. Here are just a few:  

The Flint Cultural Center Academy, expected to open in time for the start of the 2019/20 school year, will offer students a unique educational experience that features daily activities and programs at the Cultural Center institutions — Flint Institute of Arts, Flint Institute of Music, Flint Public Library, Longway Planetarium, Sloan Museum and The Whiting.

Saginaw Covenant Academy is a school that gives students a second chance.  Saginaw Covenant Academy works to prevent youth homelessness and youth incarceration by providing educational opportunities and other services, including residential, to dropout, homeless, at-risk and disenfranchised youth. They focus on retention, progress and graduation.

Old Mission Peninsula School, is the very expression of “Community”. The school’s purpose is about preserving the community on Old Mission Peninsula, just north of Traverse City. The school is valuable to the community for many reasons, as a community center where all ages come to the library and school events, sharing in the experiences. Education is the common denominator not just for kids, but also for providing educational opportunities and involvement on Old Mission Peninsula for the entire community.

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Those are just three examples.  So what’s the next quality educational experience that should be implemented? Who can provide an innovative solution to their community? 

Why not a high school where sports is not an extra-curricular activity but where physical fitness is an integrated theme of all instruction?  Why not more middle college experiences where students can complete an associates degree while still in high school, paid for by existing per-student funding? How about a new charter school that gives students a head start on a career in manufacturing or the trades, allowing graduates to step right into the workforce?

Every student is different. Every student is unique. And every student deserves to be in a great school that will bring out their potential.

I'll end by summarizing a courageous idea proposed by Ashley Rogers Berner in "No One Way to School, Pluralism and American Public Education (2017)."  

Michigan’s educational success will depend on our willingness to see the public education system as not just the locally assigned building, but rather a diverse system of public schools that deliver the opportunities that fit the needs of our students and communities.

And as for who will emerge as that next big leader and visionary - that's up to us. So if you have a bold idea, don't wait to speak up. The time is now, and it's more critical than ever. 

Thinking about opening a charter? 

  1. Learn the steps to opening a charter school in Michigan
  2. Attend an informational workshop on opening a Michigan charter school
  3. Apply to open a charter school with the Michigan Department of Education
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