charter high school in hartford ct

What is a Charter High School, and How is it Different from a Magnet School?

For those families interested in high school options other than the traditional public school route, there are several great alternatives out there including a charter high school and a magnet high school. Both school types are considered cutting-edge, offering great academic opportunity for your teen. However, they have some differentiating qualities. Below, Goodwin outlines the charter high school experience and how it compares to a magnet school.

First things first, what is a charter high school? A charter high school is a public school that is independently run. Unlike your town’s public high school, a charter high school is open to all teens regardless of their zone or zip code. Rather than being governed by a state board of education like a traditional public school, charter high schools are governed and privately managed by a group or organization, like a nonprofit.

Because charter schools are independently operated, they have increased autonomy to make important decisions about their curriculum, faculty, and school budgets. According to experts, this governance model is designed to give charter high schools more freedom to do things in a nonconventional way. Charter schools typically challenge the conventional education and encourage innovation in the classroom, according to U.S. News.

Because charter schools each have their own autonomy and missions, educational experiences and curriculum can differ from one charter high school to the next. Some schools have a specific focus area, like liberal arts or STEM, while others have a more general curriculum.

In exchange for this increased autonomy, a charter high school must adhere to performance testing and reviews to ensure that it meets the agreed-upon standards and outcomes put forth by the Charter, or the performance contract of the school. Students are still required to take state tests, and schools are held accountable to reach the academic standards outlined in their individual Charter contracts. If they do not adhere to these standards, they risk losing their funding and autonomy.

For those interested in a charter high school, you may be wondering, “What is a charter high school admission process like?” Charter schools are open to all students regardless of their race, social, or religious backgrounds, and therefore anyone can apply. Charter schools do not require entrance exams and they are tuition-free. They are considered schools of choice, meaning teens are not assigned to the school based on their zip code. Rather, students must enroll in the school by their own or their families’ choice. Depending on enrollment numbers and if there are too many applicants than the school can accommodate, there would be a lottery system to determine acceptance into the school.

As you may know, magnet schools are also considered public schools of choice. Both magnet schools and charter schools are similar in many ways. They both do not require tuition for enrollment and do not require students to reside within a certain zip code to attend. Students are open to attend both type of schools, which makes for a diverse student population.

There are, however, some key differences between a charter high school and a magnet high school. Unlike charter schools who are independently run and could be funded publicly and independently, magnet schools are only publicly funded. Therefore, they are held accountable by the state and local education board, and must meet a widely recognized set of standards as local public schools. As a result, magnet high schools are known to prioritize academic excellence and success of their students. They have high-quality instructional systems in place and a small student-teacher ratio to help monitor each student’s progress. Many magnet schools follow a certain model, such as early college or career-focused, to further engage students in their education.

The magnet high school curriculum typically has a specific theme and focus, like science, technology, or the arts. Charter high schools can also have a specific focus; however, their curriculum will depend on their specific charter contract. Magnet high schools are also known to take a very innovative, hands-on approach to learning, which research supports in better engaging children and teens with their education. Some magnet high schools like Connecticut River Academy, also focus on preparing students for college with their early college model. This can be extremely beneficial for students as it prepares them in real-time for the next step in their educational journey.

Magnet school admissions are also based on a lottery process, welcoming students from an array of different backgrounds, zones, and zip codes. You can learn more about how to apply to a magnet school on our website.

Choosing between a charter high school and a magnet high school is a big decision. While both high school alternatives offer high-quality learning experiences for teenagers, each model is very distinct. You can learn more about charter high schools and magnet high schools by clicking here. To learn more about Connecticut River Academy and our specific magnet school approach, you may schedule to attend an upcoming parent information session here.