In the 26 years since legislation was enacted allowing charter public schools like Orchard Academy to open their doors in Michigan, there has been a good deal of confusion about what charter public schools are and what benefits they offer to students. So what is a charter public school, and what are the advantages of enrolling your child in one?
Institutions of Excellence
Charter public schools are independently-operated public schools that offer students of all abilities access to a free, quality education regardless of their zip code, race, or socioeconomic status. Charter public schools adhere to all the state oversight requirements that traditional public schools must follow, including certified teachers, special education, state testing, and health code adherence.
Every charter public school in the state of Michigan operates under contract with an authorizer -- usually a university, but always a legislatively-recognized public educational entity: universities, community colleges, intermediate school districts, or local public school districts. Orchard Academy received its authorization from Central Michigan University. Established in response to the 30,000 children in Detroit that leave the city each day to attend schools in other districts, Orchard Academy’s founders were inspired to create a school of excellence within the city of Detroit. In 2019, all members of Orchard Academy’s School Board were sworn in as appointed public officials.
Like all charter public schools in Michigan, Orchard Academy is registered with the Michigan Department of Education. Because charter public schools often work with external vendors including management companies and service providers in a way that’s similar to traditional public schools working with external vendors, these partnerships sometimes create confusion. It’s important to know that a charter public school’s relationships with external for-profit vendors that are both for-profit and nonprofit have no impact on its nonprofit status.
Supportive Community Funding
Similar to traditional public schools, charter public schools receive funding from the state to cover the general operating expenses of student instruction. However, not only do charter public schools often receive less money per student than their traditional counterparts for instruction, they receive no funding from the state for their facilities, technology, sports fields, and other property-taxed items.
To make up those differences, charter public schools often rely on grants and donations from individuals, foundations, and nonprofits. Orchard Academy is thankful for the generosity of organizations like the recently-created Mission and Purpose Foundation and the Skilling and Andrews Foundation. Their philanthropic support has empowered the academy to provide children in Detroit’s North End with learning facilities that are custom-designed with the health and safety of every student in mind.
In 2019, Orchard Academy was also awarded the competitive federal Charter School Program Grant, which will provide $1,000,000 in funding over the next three years. The academy also received $150,000 in donations in 2019 and commitments to donate the same amount in 2020 -- assisting the school in its vision to instill in each child a sense of mission and purpose in life.
Innovative Academic Solutions
An important advantage of charter public schools is their flexibility and commitment to providing innovative educational opportunities for students. Because charter public schools are independently-operated, they enjoy greater autonomy and have the freedom to replace the typical one-size-fits-all model with innovative teaching solutions and classrooms that are designed specifically to meet children where they are.
At Orchard Academy, we utilize the Stockwell Model to provide children of all learning abilities with individualized instruction, empowering students to meet high expectations at their own pace. The innovative educational method, modeled after the high-performing Charyl Stockwell Academy in Hartland, focuses on educating the “whole child.” The school’s teaching staff sets high standards for academic success, guiding students to achieve excellence through continuous progress mastery learning while encouraging students to develop strong values and moral character.
Diversity by Design
Breaking down racial and socioeconomic barriers is yet another advantage of attending public charter schools. According to data from the Center for Educational Performance and Information, last year 67% of charter students in Michigan were minorities, compared to the total state average of 34%.
Orchard Academy’s commitment to “diversity by design” honors the incredible diversity of the Metro Detroit area. We welcome students of all abilities from the city and its surrounding suburbs to learn together in a safe, inclusive academic environment that eliminates the barriers to education and social mobility sometimes found in socioeconomically-divided school districts. Similarly, our diverse mixed-age classrooms encourage relationship-building and friendships among peers across a wide range of backgrounds.
Orchard Academy looks forward to providing students of all abilities a tuition-free, quality education in Detroit’s North End in the years to come. We’re currently enrolling students for kindergarten-2nd grade for the 2021-2022 school year. If you’re interested in learning more about enrollment, please contact our Head of School Natae Penn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to make a contribution to the Mission and Purpose Foundation to support Orchard Academy’s vision of providing students in Detroit with a path for life, please contact Mary Kay Shields at email@example.com.
- Central Michigan University
- Charter School
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