MDE Announces Spring 2018 Charter Startup & Replication Grant Winners

Yesterday, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) announced the winners of the spring 2018 round of federal Charter School Program (CSP) Startup and Replication/Expansion grants. The seven winners are below.

Start-Up Grantees

  • Gateway STEM Academy: Authorized by Pillsbury United Communities, Gateway plans to open in Fall 2018 in Skakopee. In its first year, Gateway intends to serve grades K-5, with 50 students in each grade or 300 students total.
  • Minnesota Wildflower Montessori School: Authorized by the Audubon Center of the North Woods (Audubon), Acorn Montessori Preschool will open Fall 2018 in Minneapolis. Acorn will serve students ages 3-6 with 30 students total to start. Part of the national Wildflowers Montessori network, Acorn will be the first Spanish, English, and Chinese immersion school in the Twin Cities. The school will also focus on creating a learning environment that is child-directed, mixed-age, and teacher-led.
  • SciTech Academy: Authorized by the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools, SciTech plans to open fall 2018. In its first year, SciTech plans to serve students in grades K-5 in Richfield, with a total of 150 students. According to their website, they will offer their students foreign language instruction in Somali language and culture three days a week starting in kindergarten. Students will also take Arabic and Spanish as they reach the upper grades. Additionally, SciTech’s curriculum will also focus on exposing students to technology, engineering, life sciences, earth and more.
  • The Studio School: Authorized by Novation Education Opportunities, Studio plans to open in the Fall 2019 in Minneapolis. Studio will serve students in grades 9-12, with a total of 225 students planned for its first year. According to their website, Studio will offer a “studio-based visual arts, media arts, design, and engineering focused curriculum” that is combined with experiential, service-learning opportunities.

Significant Expansion/Replication Grantees

  • Academy for Sciences and Agriculture (AFSA): Authorized by Audubon, AFSA plans to add grades in PreK-4 in Vadnais Heights. Currently, AFSA serves 371 students in grades 5-12. AFSA is focused on preparing students for post-secondary education, meeting students’ individual needs, and preparing students for careers in science, business, and technology.
  • New Discoveries Montessori Academy: Authorized by Audubon, New Discoveries plans to add grades 7-8 in Hutchinson. Currently, New Discoveries serves 156 students in grades PreK-6. New Discoveries’ goal is to foster self-motivation, compassion, independence, critical thinking, respect for others, as well as social and personal responsibility in its students.
  • Prodeo Academy: Authorized by Innovative Quality Schools, Prodeo will expand to a new campus in Saint Paul in Fall 2018. In its first year, Prodeo will serve students in grades PreK-1, and will add a new class each year until it reaches 8th grade and serving over 800 students. Prodeo provides individualized instruction for every student, and works to ensure that all students are engaged and excited about their learning.

Overview of Minnesota’s CSP Grants

In 2012, MDE received $28 million from the United States Department of Education (USDE) to be used over the course of five years for grants to charter schools in the state. After the spring 2016 round of CSP grants and the five year grant period ended, MDE had about $12 million in grant money remaining. In December 2016, MDE received a one-year, no cost extension from USDE for the CSP program.

In September 2017, MDE was awarded another five-year, $45.8 million CSP grant from USDE.

This grant was part of the first cohort of CSP grants awarded under the 2015 federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Specifically, Minnesota was one of nine state education agencies to win a CSP grant, out of 22 that applied. Relatedly, seventeen charter management organizations, which are nonprofit groups that run networks of charter schools, won CSP grants.

What is the CSP Grant Program?

The CSP program consists of two grants—Startup and Replication/Expansion. The Startup Grant is intended for charter schools that are in development or in their first two years of operation. The award ranges from $100,000 to $225,000 each year for up to three years. In order to be eligible for the grant, the charter school must be approved by an authorizer and obtain a new charter school "affidavit" from MDE.

The Replication/Expansion Grant is for charter schools that plan to significantly expand or replicate, serve at least 200 students, and are also identified by the MDE as “high-quality”. The high-quality designation is based on multiple measures of a school’s operational, academic, and financial performance.

Like the Startup Grant, the Replication/Expansion grant award ranges from $100,000 to $225,000 each year for up to three years, with the first year intended for planning and the other two years for carrying out the expansion.

Each year, MDE carries out two grant cycles. The next application cycle will be in the Fall 2018.

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