The Office of Charter Schools (Office) was created in 1999 within the School of Education (SOE) to carry out the University's responsibilities under the Wisconsin Statute 118.40 Federal (Appendix A) and State (Appendix B) Laws and Regulations.  The mission of the Office is to cooperate with community organizations, parents, groups, educators, and other individuals who are committed to improving the quality of education in the City to charter successful, innovative schools.

The responsibility of the Office is to: (1) grant charters to organizations, groups, or individuals that demonstrate the capacity to operate a high quality schools, (2) establish clear expectations for performance, (3) gather data necessary to ensure that expectations are met, (4) evaluate school progress, and (5) take appropriate action to renew or non-renew charters based on a school's performance in relation to expectations.

The Office is interested in working with organizations, groups, and individuals that seek to develop charter schools based on research and successful practices in urban environments.  The Office encourages applications based on programs that: (1) present new, innovative organizational and curricular opportunities for the education of children in the urban setting, (2) use models of effective instruction based on research and a demonstrated capability of replication, (3) are built on whole-school strategies, (4) focus on at-risk youth, and (5) integrate both educational and family resource services to address the wide array of issues that face children and parents.

The Office is staffed by a director, administrative specialist, faculty statistics adviser, and a doctoral level graduate assistant.  See Job Descriptions.   An Advisory Committee meets bi-monthly to advise the director.  An Application Review Committee meets annually to determine if applications will be recommended for charter status.  An Evaluation Committee conducts summative evaluation of each charter school and makes recommendations to the Regents regarding charter renewal.  Full descriptions of these committees are also provided at Committee Structure and Responsibilities.

It is the University's goal to look for charter applications that have a high potential to improve the quality of education in the City rather than the authorization of a large number of charter schools.  The University does not intend to operate its own school system or to compete with the Milwaukee Public Schools.

The University has accepted the responsibility for authorizing charter schools in order take advantage of the flexibility allowed charter schools to develop innovative programs that address the educational needs of children living in the City.  The University is interested in new, creative programs that will add to the educational mosaic and help define the elements of programs that will be successful in the urban setting.

The University firmly believes that there exists a knowledge base that can be used to redefine educational programs and opportunities for children who are considered to be at-risk (low achievement/poor attendance/potential dropout) in the current configuration of schooling.  Thus, charter school effort should be used to demonstrate effective instruction and document educational achievement for at-risk students.

School reform can take many forms and be based on a number of philosophical approaches. It is not the goal of the University to implement a particular philosophy or approach.  Rather the University desires to identify those approaches that produce academic results that are valued by society.  The University encourages the use of existing knowledge and research to create an integrated approach that achieves fundamental academic outcomes.

State and federal law provides the general framework and the minimum requirements for the development of a charter school application.  To become a University authorized charter school, applicants need to do much more than comply with the law.  Applicants must provide evidence that the school, as envisioned, truly has the potential to create a high quality educational program with long-term viability.