What is a charter school?
A charter school is a public school that receives government funding but operates independently of the state's school system.
Charter schools are generally free from restrictive state guidelines but are still accountable for results. For instance, charter schools have more freedom to design classrooms to meet student needs (curriculum, hours of operation, teaching methods, etc.), yet students still have to take state standardized tests.
Whereas traditional public schools are governed by school districts with curricula set in place by state standards, charter schools operate under a contract, or "charter," with a charter school authorizer that outlines the school's rights, responsibilities, and performance expectations.
What is a charter school authorizer?
Charter school authorizers hold charter schools accountable to set standards, varying from state to state, as outlined in the school's charter.
Examples of charter school authorizers include:
- For-profit companies that manage schools, also known as charter networks, charter management organizations (CMOS), or educational management organizations (EMOs)
- Higher educational institutions
- Independent chartering boards, and
- Non-educational government entities (mayor's office, non-profit organizations, or local education agencies)
Charter school authorizers review schools regularly, typically every five years, for academic, financial, and operational success. Authorizers are also allowed to shut down a school if the school does not abide by its charter.
What are the benefits of a charter school?
Charter schools typically have themes of focus, such as college preparatory programs, courses geared towards STEM fields, or the arts.
Charter school are often considered tuition-free "public schools of choice." Families who choose charter schools for their children typically have enhanced teacher-parent communication compared to their traditional public school counterparts.
Charter schools also have a reduced class size compared to traditional public schools, allowing students to receive more individualized instruction.
Charter schools do not require students to pass an exam upon admittance, and they do not have to identify as a specific religious or racial group to enter.
Rather than attending an assigned school based on zip code, students interested in attending a charter school must apply or enter a lottery at random for admittance.
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