Overview of Charter Schools
What are charter schools?
are public schools that any students can go to and their parents don't have to
pay. Charter schools, like public schools, are funded with taxpayer dollars, so
they are not private schools and there are no tuition payments associated with
enrollment in a charter school.
But they are
different from public schools because they have increased flexibility in their
rules, programming and staff, offering more options and opportunities than the
traditional public school usually can. Both the students and the teachers have
chosen to be there, and that is different than most public-school settings.
got started in Minnesota in 1992, and in 2008, charter school advocates claim
there are more than 4,000 charter schools today in more than 40 states and the
District of Columbia, educating more than 1.3 million students.
The state with
the most charter schools is California, in which a quarter of a million
students are in charter-school classrooms.
advocates claim that even though charter schools make up less than 3% of all
schools in the United States, many of them are extraordinarily good, and 12 of
the top-rated 100 high schools in the country are charter schools, they say.
The amount of
freedom charter schools have depends a lot on the quality of the state law that
enables them. For example, in some states, the teachers' unions still have
effective control over such matters as the yearly calendar, start and stop
times for teachers and other staff, credentials of staff, and other important
elements of schooling. Therefore, in some states, charter schools don't have
very much freedom to be different, and thus their student achievement is not
much better than that of students in the regular public schools.
Examples of how
charter schools might differ from regular public schools in how they choose to
meet the educational needs of individual children: they might be focused on a
particular theme such as language immersion or the arts; decision-making might
include parents, which you almost never see with traditional public schools;
teachers typically have more freedom and flexibility to develop curriculum and
activities; the school start and stop times or the school-year might be structured
differently; discipline rules may be different; parental participation rules
may be different, and in some charter schools, strict rules about teacher
credentials may be somewhat relaxed.
still have plenty of accountability systems in place, the same as regular
public schools. Through school boards or other authorities, they are
accountable to parents, to charter-school authorizers, the state, and lenders.
According to the University of
Minnesota's Joe Nathan, a charter-school expert, charter school enrollment is
growing because the schools are small and safe, offer attractive and
distinctivce programming, usually have better discipline, and it's common to
experience a high level of respect among parents, students and teachers.
EdSource, an independent research
organization, recently found charter middle and high schools performed much
better than regular public schools on California's 2007 achievement tests.
Oakland's charter middle schools scored 210 points higher, on an 800-point
scale, than the city's noncharters, according to the Oakland Tribune.
are websites for more information about charter schools:
(study shows grade-school charter schools outperform traditional public schools
for disadvantaged student populations)