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Frequently Asked Questions about Charter Schools

 

What is a charter school? 

Charter schools are…

• innovative public schools;

• designed by educators, parents, or civic leaders;

• open and attended by choice;

• free from most rules and regulations governing conventional public schools;

• and, accountable for results.

 

How Do Charter Schools Differ from Traditional District Public Schools? 

Charter schools operate on three basic principles:

1. Choice: Charter schools give families an opportunity to pick the school most suitable for their child’s educational well-being. Teachers choose to create and work at schools where they can directly shape the learning environment for their students and themselves in innovative ways. Likewise, charter authorizers choose to sponsor schools that are likely to best serve the needs of the students in a particular community.

 

2. Accountability: Charter schools are judged on how well they meet the student achievement goals established by their charter contracts. Charter schools must also show that they can perform up to rigorous fiscal and managerial standards. If a charter school cannot perform up to the established standards, it will be closed.

 

3. Freedom: While charter schools must adhere to the same major laws and regulations as all other public schools, they are freed from the red tape that often diverts a school’s energy and resources away from educational excellence. Instead of constantly jumping through procedural hoops, charter school leaders can focus on setting and reaching high academic standards for their students. Some charter school programs focus on the basics — reading, writing, and the traditional school subjects with which some students struggle. Other schools have special arts or music programs. Some charters look just like traditional public schools, and some serve a particular community. Some are dropout prevention programs, adult education programs, online programs, charters that serve day care needs, and charters that work with children who want to go to college.

Why Are Charter Schools So Popular?

Educational Quality: The primary reason for the existence of charter schools is to make sure every child has access to a quality education. With the freedom and choice to do so, charters set higher standards and must meet them to stay in business. Most traditional district public schools stay in business no matter how poorly they perform. Charters are one of America’s tickets to a higher-quality school system.

 

Focus on the Kids: Perhaps one of the most important features of charter schools is that they are set up around the needs of children, not around the needs of adults. The focus should always be on the kids, and programs should be designed to help children succeed, no matter what it takes.

Safer, stronger communities: Charter schools typically engage local businesses and other organizations to help provide resources and services to the school and its families.

The Board: Every charter school is required by law to have a board of directors that is ultimately responsible for what the school does. Legally, the board oversees the operations of the school and makes sure it is financially sound and follows the law. The Board also helps to create the vision for how the school should operate, and is often made up of parents of children attending the charter school.

The Teachers: Teachers choose charter schools because these schools help them avoid the frustrations of constant bureaucracy. In addition to hiring the same certified teachers as traditional public schools, charter schools can hire qualified individuals that often have significant professional experience in their subject area, but may not be traditionally credentialed. This allows many charter schools to offer an education infused with real-world experience.

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