In addition to oversight by the department of public instruction (DPI), a charter school also has a responsibility to their authorizer. An authorizer is an entity that monitors the performance, finances, and organizational stability of charter schools. Charter schools can be authorized by a state board of education, a state university, community college or local district.
Mill Creek Academy’s authorizer is the University of Wisconsin System Office of Educational Opportunity, which ensures the school upholds the promises made in the charter contract.
“Charter schools have additional autonomy because they have more accountability,” said Megan DeKraker, NHA director of growth and corporate development.
Charter schools are public schools and are regulated by the DPI to make sure they are following rules and regulations. In addition, someone from the authorizer visits the school on a regular basis to ensure the framework and metrics of the charter agreement between the authorizer and the school are being met. That criteria might include:
- Is the school progressing?
- Are students learning?
- Are families engaged?
- Is it meeting its mission and vision?
“A lot of time and effort went into this,” DeKraker said. “(Mill Creek) considered opening in 2022 but ultimately decided to wait a year and open this fall. We have been working in cooperation with that local board and the authorizer for quite a long time to set our school up for success.”
The length of a charter is five years, and a school must prove it is ready to be renewed at the end of its term. If a school is not performing, an authorizer has the ability to shut that school down. If the school is not performing academically, the authorizer can issue a corrective action plan.
“That’s something that’s really different from traditional district schools,” DeKraker said. “District schools, if they’re not performing, the state might do a few things but it’s very unlikely the school is going to be closed. Charter schools do have that extra layer.”
Even with the added scrutiny of an authorizer, the biggest indicator of a charter school’s success are the parents and families in each community who hold the school accountable through school of choice.
“The only reason parents are going to stay with us is if their child is learning, they’re happy with the teacher they have, and they’re feeling like it’s a good school environment and community,” DeKraker said.
Mill Creek Academy is taking applications for the 2023-24 school year. Apply today!
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Mill Creek Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Waukesha, Wisconsin, serving students in all-day 4K through fifth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.
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