Three young girls with big smiles on their faces line up for a picture together

The Office of Charter Schools was established to implement state legislation authorizing the operation of charter schools and serves as the review and monitoring organization as defined by the legislation.

This webpage offers information about all aspects of our operation, presently operating UWM charter schools, charter school laws and regulations, and links to other charter school-related sites of potential interest. We are pleased that you have an interest in charter schools and hope that the office can provide the information you need.

For further information please refer to our 2022-23 Annual Report (PDF).

For information not provided by this web site or our annual report, please contact our office at 414-229-4682 or e-mail

For information on all charter schools in Wisconsin, please visit the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Charter Schools in Wisconsin.

Adrienne L. Woods, MS
Office of Charter Schools

Legislative Background

In 1997, the Wisconsin Legislature authorized the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to grant charters in the City of Milwaukee under s. 118.40 (2r), Wis. Stats.

The Office of Charter Schools was created in 1999 within the School of Education to carry out the university’s responsibilities under federal and state charter laws. In the 2013 session of the Wisconsin Legislature, UWM’s chartering authority was expanded from the geographic boundaries of the City of Milwaukee only to a new boundary area defined as “only Milwaukee County and adjacent counties.” Under 2015 Wisconsin Act 55, the university was permitted statewide chartering authority effective July 15, 2015.

Office Overview

The responsibility of the office is to:

  • Grant charters to organizations, groups or individuals that demonstrate the capacity to operate high quality schools.
  • Establish clear expectations for performance.
  • Gather data necessary to ensure that expectations are met.
  • Evaluate school progress.
  • 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:

  • Support effective instruction based on research literature.
  • Are innovative in meeting the educational needs of the community.
  • Will work to meet the needs of at-risk students.
  • Will contribute to reform efforts in public education.
  • Are innovative in addressing the challenges of urban education.

A director, assistant director of business services and assessment coordinator staff the office. An advisory committee meets quarterly to advise the director. An application review committee meets annually to determine if applications will be recommended for charter status. An evaluation committee conducts a summative evaluation of each charter school and makes recommendations to the chancellor and the Regents regarding charter renewal. Full job descriptions and committee charges are found by viewing the Job Descriptions/Committee Charges (PDF) information document. See the Committee Member Listing (PDF) for additional information.

Image showing a section of an elementary school classroom

University Involvement

It is the university’s responsibility to approve charter applications that have a high potential to improve the quality of education. The university does not intend to operate its own school system or to compete with school districts throughout the state.

The university has accepted the charge 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 urban areas. 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 at-risk (low achievement/poor attendance/potential dropout) in the current configuration of schooling. Thus, charter school efforts should be used to demonstrate effective instruction and document educational achievement for at-risk students.

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.

Mission, Goals and Strategies


The mission of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Office of Charter Schools (UWM-OCS), in partnership with the greater community, is to provide exceptional educational options for urban families by authorizing high performing public charter schools.


The UWM-OCS mission focuses on two goals:

  1. UWM-OCS will demonstrate inclusive partnership with UWM and the greater community as compelled by the educational needs of urban students.
  2. Schools in the UWM-OCS portfolio will meet or exceed standards associated with high quality educational programs as defined by the UWM-OCS performance framework and/or negotiated standards specific to the school’s unique mission.

Goals for further advancing the OCS mission will be achieved by action within five strategies.

  1. Develop mission-based relationship with UWM-SOE (e.g., involving research about charter schools and educational best practice and innovation, specific charter school partnerships, enrollment of charter school students, placement of SOE students).
  2. Develop connections/relationships between charter schools and UWM programs and resources outside of SOE.
  3. Develop vehicles and venues that support communication about and between charter schools (e.g., communication of charter school purpose, practice and products; convening of charter authorizers and charter schools to address shared concerns and innovations and best practices; acquisition of dissemination funds).
  4. Develop a collaborative relationship with MPS that supports mutual interest in advancing quality educational programming for Milwaukee students.
  5. Incorporate requirements in initial and renewal charter applications and school growth reports that further address:
    1. An ongoing innovation focus
    2. A research-based best practice focus
    3. A partnership focus
    4. A whole child/community/family focus

Complete Listing of Charter Schools


Adrienne L. Woods, MS
Director, Office of Charter Schools
View Profile
Diana Borders, MBA
Business Services Assistant Director, Office of Charter Schools
View Profile
Nicole Beier, PhD
Researcher – Assessment Coordinator, Office of Charter Schools
View Profile

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
School of Education
Enderis Hall 221, 227, and 229
2400 E. Hartford Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Mailing Address
UWM Charter Schools
P.O. Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53201-0413