Introduction to Authorizers
Authorizers are organizations approved by the state to bring charter schools into existence. Without authorizers, charter schools cannot exist. Thus, the importance of charter school authorization is paramount. In order to raise charter school authorizer awareness, this series will highlight the work of each individual authorizer from MACSA. Each authorizer has a different focus and mission, thus diversifying the authorizing presence in Minnesota. The distinct missions of charters align with certain authorizers better than others, so the ability for charters to select their authorizer provides better support for schools to succeed. The missions and visions of each Authorizer will be highlighted, along with the main components of their work with Minnesota Charter Schools. The more authorization can be understood by the general public, the greater support authorizers will find in the overall charter process.
- Audubon Center of the Northwoods
Audubon is set apart because of its distinct environmental advocacy component. This authorizer is extremely involved in the community, planning activities and creating environmental awareness. Because of Audubon’s passion for the environment, they require the schools they authorize to create an environmental education component in their schools. Audubon offers many ways for the community to get involved in learning about the environment. Their website will provide all of the information you will need if you are interested in supporting this amazing non-profit. This authorizer has a robust influence on the community and many opportunities for environmental education.
- Bethel University
Bethel University strives to train and motivate inspiring educators that make a difference. The support of innovative charters is the main mission of Bethel’s chartering department. Hmong College Prep Academy, Northwest Passage High School, and PACT Charter are specific schools that Bethel authorizes. Bethel’s Education Department has many distinctives that set it apart, emphasizing the university’s passion for quality education of teachers and educational leaders. The Bethel charter authorizing page emphasizes in a succinct, beautiful way, how much Bethel influences education in a positive way.
- Chisago Lakes School District
Chisago Lakes School District authorizes its own charter school. The mission of their charter, TRIO Wolf Creek Distance Learning Charter School, is to improve student achievement and learning through innovation. The charter was designed to better serve students within the school district and to promote more educational opportunities and better performance for students underserved in the traditional public schools. To understand more about the Chisago Lakes model, you can visit their site here.
- Friends of Education
Friends of Education hopes to improve education by creating more post-secondary readiness. The site is rich with positive imagery, highlighting the positive impact the educational regimen creates for schools authorized by this entity. This non-profit was started in 1999 and promotes critical thinking. Classical education is one of the main components of the “content-rich” curriculum that Friends of Education is known for. The schools in this Authorizer’s care are well-performing and utilize the content-rich model. Vocabulary size is emphasized in the charter schools affiliated with Friends of Education. If you would like to learn more about this progressive authorizer, you can find their website here. The accolades of their schools are highlighted along with their mission/inspiration.
- Innovative Quality Schools
Innovative Quality Schools have a large portfolio of schools in their care. This authorizer monitors and maintains over twenty schools!! IQS does not restrict itself to only one area of Minnesota. Their territory ranges from Milroy to Minneapolis. If you visit their site, you will definitely sense a very tangible, positive vibe. The work IQS does is more than just about authorization. They specialize in professional development and school board training. Board organization and structure is the driving force behind financial security for schools. IQS also focuses on the interdependence of education and valuing community.
- Minnesota Guild
The Minnesota Guild is a single-purpose authorizer that advocates for a better systemic approach to education. Their site, which can be reached here, is filled with interesting blog posts about vital charter information. The Guild differentiates itself from other authorizers in the fact that they promote teacher-powered schools. The teacher-centered idea is how the charter notion was originally born. Charter schools were initially designed to incorporate teacher research into innovative, high-quality educational institutions. 9 out of 10 Americans believe that teachers should have more power over the decisions in schools; The Minnesota Guild wants to bring this vision to life.
- Northfield Public School District
Northfield Public School District authorizes two charter schools within their district boundaries: Arcadia Charter School and Prairie Creek Community School. Northfield Public School District believes in the importance of a democratic society based on choice. No two students are exactly alike and Northfield Public Schools believe that charters complement their other schools to provide more offerings based on student needs. Information about the vision of Northfield Public School’s charter schools can be found here. There is an intense discussion about allowing students to succeed their own way using their personal, unique gifts.
- Novation Education Opportunities
Novation Education Opportunities has a distinct purpose of mentoring charters to be successful in their mission. Their name, Novation Education Opportunities, ties directly to the mission of the organization. The mission can be found in the following link. The site is filled with photos of the schools within their caseload and the children housed within the schools. The images display visualizations of active learning, happiness, and creativity. Diverse student needs are served, based off the needs of the community. The caseload of schools is quite unique, encompassing various missions and environments.
- Pillsbury United Communities
Pillsbury United Communities focuses on equity and co-creating solutions. There is a strong focus on arts and culture, thus creating a niche for this authorizer. One of the most impactful quotes on their site is “We envision individuals and families that are well.” Pillsbury United Communities desires for children to be healthy in every way, not just academically. This authorizer creates multidimensional support through community health, education, employment training, asset creation, and family services. Pillsbury United Communities inspires change and goal achievement throughout community intervention and involvement. Check out their impact and involvement in this link.
- Student Achievement Minnesota
The mission of Student Achievement Minnesota is to serve students coming from disadvantaged situations. One of Student Achievement’s Schools, the Math and Science Academy, is ranked the #1 High School in Minnesota according to the US World News and Report. This high school had the highest composite ACT score in the state in 2017 with an average composite score of 27.6. Currently, Student Achievement Minnesota authorizes three charter schools and desires to create more positive student outcomes for underserved populations. More information on the accomplishments of Student Achievement Minnesota can be found here.
- University of Saint Thomas
The Authorization entity of the University is housed within the Education Department. The portfolio contains 12 charter schools currently. The goal of the authorizing entity is to create better educational opportunities for children in the Twin Cities Metro area. University of Saint Thomas promotes the health of charter schools so that each and every school reaches its full potential. University of Saint Thomas has a robust Education Department that hopes to advance the common good and create more pathways for diverse teachers to enter the field. The department is very involved with the chartering movement and you can find more about the entire organization through the following link.
- Volunteers of America- Minnesota
The Volunteers of America have a strong shared vision: “While serving others…”. The goal of this authorizer is to provide families with high-quality, viable educational choices in the public school market. Service, volunteerism, and positive community relations are a main focus of the site as well. Volunteers of America values strong positive relationships, both with students and schools. This organization does much more than just authorize schools, but all the services come together because of the need for community service. There is extensive information about the services provided by Volunteers of America on their site.
- Winona Area Public Schools
Winona Area Public Schools believe in the power of school choice for positive student learning. One of their large contributions to history was authorizing the first charter approved in Minnesota. The website, linked here, is open and honest with families about the intent of a charter school and the school district’s vision behind charters. Winona believes in compassion, the power of positive relationships, and family choice. Safety and a positive learning environment are vital to fostering a successful academic path. Also, schools should be centered around the trust between community and staff.