Charter School Questions & Answers
Public charter schools are increasingly popular alternatives to traditional public school education. Understanding what charter schools are and how they operate is important information for any parent or student seeking better avenues of learning. The following questions and answers about charter schools will help you make the right choice for your family and your children. If you need additional information, please contact us direct.
What are charter schools?
Charter schools are public schools. A charter school is a school that is publicly funded but operates independently of the public school system in the area in which it is located. Charter schools are tuition-free; and there are no special requirements for admissions.
What makes charter schools different is their approach to education. While charter schools adhere to major laws and regulations conventional public schools follow, they are freed from much of the “red tape” that diverts the school’s energy and resources from its primary mission of providing students with quality learning opportunities. In exchange for this autonomy, charter schools are held to high standards of academic, fiscal and managerial accountability than their public school counterparts. Traditional public schools usually operate no matter how poorly they perform. Charter schools are not afforded this option. They must perform to high standards or risk being closed.
Charter schools have autonomy to shape learning environments in ways that allow teachers to better focus on setting and achieving high academic standards for their students. It often includes utilizing innovative teaching methods that personalize a student’s learning experience.
Last but not least, charter schools differ from conventional public school because charter schools are a choice, not a mandate. Parents and students choose charter schools because of greater curriculum flexibilities, unique cultures and records of achievement.
Are charter schools a new concept in education?
Charter schools are not a new concept in education. The first charter school opened in Minnesota in 1992. Today, no less than 43 states and the District of Columbia sanction charter school operations. Charter schools are growing in popularity and more families are choosing charter schools for their children’s education because of their outstanding performance.
How successful are charter schools?
Charter schools are some of the highest performing schools in the country. Charter schools have shown exceptional performance in shrinking achievement gaps for low-income and minority students in urban areas. Students that struggle with science and math in conventional public schools often show marked improvement when transferring to a charter school environment. Well operated charter schools perform significantly better than conventional public schools with higher satisfaction levels among parents and students.
What are the admission requirements for a charter school?
All school age children can be admitted to a charter school. By law, charter schools cannot have admission policies that discriminate against students. Any student may apply. At many charter schools, admission is contingent upon class seating availability. If more students apply than there are seats available, a lottery is held to determine who is admitted. Some charter schools have wait lists and students are admitted as space becomes available.
What oversight is provided to charter schools?
Charter schools are required to operate under all applicable provisions of state and federal law. They must abide by health, safety and civil rights laws and cannot discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex or national origin. These are the same rules and regulations that govern traditional public schools.
Charter schools have an extra level of oversight versus conventional public schools. Their operation and performance is watched over by a Board of Trustees as well as NYSED Charter School Office. Unlike regular public schools, charter schools are subject to closure if they fail to meet high performance standards.
How are teachers different at charter schools?
Charter school teachers are held accountable for their student’s level of academic achievement. As such, they are given more latitude in choosing the materials and methods used in their classrooms. Their success is predicated upon their student’s success which means it is common in charter school environments to see more teacher/student involvement.
Teachers at charter schools enjoy a sense of ownership in the operation of the school. They have a say in how the school works. They are unencumbered by bureaucratic red tape common at traditional public schools which means they can amend their curriculum and teaching styles to better meet the needs of their students.
At most charter schools, teacher work “at-will.” As such, charter school teachers are more willing to do “whatever it takes” to help their students achieve. It may mean longer work days and more personalized instruction for students in need, but the teachers involved appreciate the opportunity to pursue excellence in their profession. Charters schools regularly seek the best and most qualified teaching talent available.