K-8 Choice in Michigan: Practices and Policies within Charter and Traditional Public Schools

December 2016
Susan Dynarski, Brian Jacob, Mahima Mahadevan

Many view public and charter schools as vastly different school settings, but research rarely compares charter schools to the traditional public schools that students would likely otherwise attend. What are the different policies that affect administrators and teachers between charter and public schools? How engaged are charter school parents? What would a charter school student’s educational experience be if he or she attended the neighborhood public school instead? Using the Education Policy Initiative’s Michigan School Practices Survey, we answer these questions in the Michigan context by looking at practices and policies at charter schools and their traditional public school counterparts.

Key findings

  1. Michigan charter schools expect more from, and offer more to, their staff, giving greater authority to principals and more professional support to teachers than do their counterpart public schools.
  2. Teacher starting salaries are nearly 10% lower in Michigan charter schools, though 66% of charter schools offer merit-based bonuses compared to 16% in counterpart public schools.
  3. Michigan charter schools offer a slightly longer school day and provide an equivalent number of days in the school year, but devote less time to after-school tutoring than neighborhood public schools.
  4. Michigan charter schools report slightly higher levels of parental engagement and “no excuses” school policies than neighborhood public schools.