The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

June 4, 2012

Local charter schools’ enrollment steady

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While a statewide analysis of charter school enrollment shows slowing after significant gains the past decade, several southern Minnesota schools have stayed fairly steady.

Lafayette Charter School, Minnesota New Country School in Henderson and TEAM Academy Charter School in Waseca all have shown modest gains in enrollment over the past few years. Mankato’s RBA Public Charter School dropped significantly from 2007 to 2010 but has since rebounded slightly.

 Meanwhile, the analysis of Minnesota school data released Monday finds charter enrollment growth is slowing statewide after years of rapid increases.

The analysis from the Center for School Change found charter enrollment grew by an average of 5.5 percent annually in the past two years, the lowest growth rate in more than a decade.

Charter enrollment quadrupled during the past decade, a period when traditional school enrollment fell 5 percent. Traditional schools still have many more students, about 786,000 compared to charter schools’ 39,000.

Minnesota New Country School adviser Dee Thomas said the school’s enrollment was 106 in 2012. Ten years later, enrollment is 115 this year, just one more student than five years ago. (The school serves sixth through 12th grade.)

TEAM Academy in Waseca opened seven years ago serving two grades, kindergarten and fourth grade. Director Jill Ladwig said the school added two grades at a time and now serves kindergarten through sixth-grade students. As they’ve added grades, enrollment has increased, she said. Enrollment was 119 in 2007, 120 in 2010, 150 in 2011 and is 148 now.

Ladwig attributes the increases to individualized attention students receive at TEAM Academy and other charter school models. She said some of the school’s population has come from previously home-schooled children whose parents were attracted to the school’s smaller size.

She said the school has a “family environment” and the teachers know all of the students’ names. Small-group breakouts for reading and math help every student learn, she said.

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