Is a Charter School the Best Choice for Your Child?

In metro Detroit and throughout Michigan, families have plenty of school choice, and charter schools offer unique options. But is a charter school right for your child?

January 21 marks the beginning of National School Choice Week 2024 and now is an ideal time to learn more about your options for choosing the right school for your child. In addition to parochial, independent and traditional public schools are Michigan charter schools. In many cases, charter schools expand school choice by offering unique educational options to families and students. Could a charter school be the best choice for your child?

“Charter schools are part of the overall public school system, and they are places where incredible innovations can be explored,” says Michael Cousins, Assistant Director of Communications and External Affairs at Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office

Get to know charter schools

By design, charter schools offer a unique approach, typically in curriculum, structure or focus. Because charter schools are public schools, they’re open to all students and must maintain the same high standards expected of every Michigan public school. 

Charter schools are also driven by community need, says Janelle Brzezinski, Director of Communications with The Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University

“Charter schools are formed when a need is identified by a community and a school is developed to serve that need,” she says. “But the unique thing about a charter school is that there are no district boundaries. The school is serving a need in its community but it is open to any student in the state, so there could be students coming from outside the community to learn as well. This is another way that charter schools offer that element of choice.”

As you consider the choices for your child’s next school year, take some time to learn about charter schools and what they offer students, communities and families.  

What value does a charter school offer families?

Charter schools offer a more personalized and individualized learning experience, says Cousins, adding that a small class feel and strong connections with teachers and administrators support students. Charter schools also work hard to make parents an integral part of the experience.

“When parents believe that public education needs to be reimagined, they recognize that charter schools are an option that works for them,” he says, adding that charter schools prepare students for their next step, whether that’s college or even a skilled trade. “More charter schools are starting clubs focused on skilled trades because there’s a need for those jobs and students and families want to get foundational learning about those careers in their K-8 or high school,” he says.

With an additional layer of accountability in the form of a charter school authorizer, families can take comfort in knowing that their child’s charter school receives additional support and oversight, typically from a public college like Central Michigan University or Grand Valley State University. 

How do students benefit from attending charter schools?

Charter schools serve students first. “At the end of the day, students in charter schools are set up for success in a unique way. They’re learning in a way that makes them feel seen and valued by teachers and staff who care about them and want them to have a successful future,” Brzezinski says. 

Photo credit: Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office

A charter school’s agility makes them able to pivot quickly to meet the needs of students. Online charter schools, particularly, have grown to fill the need for students who have medical concerns, who travel due to high-level sports or other commitments, need credit recovery or an accelerated curriculum — or who simply thrive in a more flexible environment. 

Why charter schools are the center of their communities

Photo credit: Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office

Some early charter schools — among the first to be opened 30 years ago when charter school legislation was first enacted — have become mainstays in their communities. 

Here in metro Detroit, Hanley International Academy, Riverside Academy and Escuela Avancemos Academy are among charter schools that serve the needs of refugee and immigrant families. Some even reach into the community to offer adult language classes and other vital community resources. Jalen Rose Leadership Academy has a “grades 9-16 model,” to provide college readiness and the support students need to remain in and graduate from college.

Across the state, West Michigan Aviation Academy offers students the chance to build and fly airplanes, program drones and even earn a private pilot’s license by the time they graduate. The award-winning Grand River Preparatory High School provides access to several Advanced Placement courses, and students must complete a minimum of two AP courses to graduate. 

Greenspire Academy and High School in the Traverse City area both offer project-based learning focused on environmental appreciation, using Lake Michigan as a learning lab to study sustainability, with support from local businesses. West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science, one of Michigan’s first charter schools, offers nature-based preschool programs, plant and bird identification in elementary school, outdoor camp in middle school, salmon release and service learning in high school — and a lot more.

How to find the right charter school for your child

Word of mouth is often the way families learn about charter school opportunities. If you meet a family that attends a charter school, ask about their impressions of the school. Or, if you’re curious about a particular school close to home, reach out to the principal and visit the school.

“Talk to as many schools as possible and hear parents’ stories. Attend a board meeting to learn how the board interacts,” suggests Cousins. 

Photo credit: Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office

Start early so you have plenty of time to research, visit schools and make your choice. 

You can learn more about charter schools through:

Find more articles like this at Metro Parent’s Guide to Michigan Charter Schools.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -


Fun Things to Do with Metro Detroit Kids This Weekend

Looking for some family fun? Check out our list of events and other things to do this weekend.

See the Crestwood School District 2023-2024 Academic Calendar

Find all the important dates on the Crestwood School District Academic Calendar.

Selfridge Air Show Opens to the Public

Brought to you by the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development and the Macomb Intermediate School District

- Advertisement -