Wednesday was a big day for Minnesota schools as the state released new school ratings. And somehow, a noteworthy report that assesses the health of the state's charter school movement got lost in the swirl.
Minnesota is the birthplace of the charter school movement. In 2012, the national charter school conference was held in Minneapolis. It wasn't by coincidence.
But a report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools indicates that Minnesota - while having a very strong charter law - needs to do more to make sure successful charter schools are growing
The group ranks Minnesota 16 out of 26 states when it comes to the overall charter school climate.
Specifically, the report found that: 83 percent of the state's charters were located in non-suburban areas in 2011-2012 as compared to 76 percent of traditional public schools; 26 charter schools closed between 2008 and 2012, a 3.5 percent annual closure rate; and the state's charter schools served significantly higher number of racial and ethnic minorities compared to traditional public schools.
The report also found that on average, public charter school students had lower academic growth in math when compared with traditional public schools between the 2007-2008 school year and the 2010-2011 school year.
"As the nation’s charter pioneer and a state use to being ranked number one each year for having 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," wrote Al Fan, executive director of the Minneapolis-based Charter School Partners, in his blog.
Fan said that the report emphasizes something that local charter school advocates have known for some time: there needs to be more urgency in replicating high-achieving charter schools that work and closing those that aren't working if they can't improve.
For years, local charter schools produce some of the highest test scores in the state when student poverty is factored into the equation. Harvest Prep, Hiawatha Academies, Global Academy and Friendship Academy consistently rank at the top of the Star Tribune's annual "Beating the Odds" list.
And next year one those schools - Hiawatha - will grow its successful brand to include a new high school. Leaders of the Harvest Prep, Best Academy and Mastery School have plans to triple enrollment by 2020.
So charter school expansion is happening, But the report by the Alliance suggest it should be happening faster.