Charter Schools Offer an Array of Choices
In many areas, charter schools give parents a wealth of alternatives to their neighborhood school.
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By GreatSchools Staff
Charter schools are public schools that have flexibility in structuring academic programs, hiring teachers and carrying out other functions. The degree of freedom that charter schools have differs by state.
What makes a charter school different?
- Charter schools must be nonsectarian and nondiscriminatory in all programs, enrollment, employment and other operations.
- Charter schools cannot charge tuition, although some schools charge for preschool, before- and after-school programs.
- Charter schools are free to set their own discipline, personnel and curricular practices, but they must meet state academic standards and comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Most charter schools offer:
- Smaller class size (20 to 25 students) than traditional public schools
- An alternative way of delivering instruction
- A specialized education targeted at a particular population of students that is not well served by traditional schools, such as at-risk or performing arts students
- Freedom from the bureaucracy that operates traditional public schools
- High standards of fiscal and academic accountability. If the school doesn't manage its fiscal operations well or show gains in student achievement, it can have its charter revoked.
Why are charter schools so popular?
Charter schools provide parents with an alternative to their neighborhood school and an array of curriculum choices aimed at students with specific skills or special needs. Because charter schools are exempt from many of the laws and bureaucracy of the state education code, they can try new approaches and tailor their curriculum to their students.
Are charter schools better than my neighborhood school?
Some are and some aren't. Some schools have an innovative curriculum, small class size and have reported strong academic gains. Others have had their charters revoked because of poor fiscal management. Several nationally based for-profit companies have opened charter schools that have been praised as models of proven success and criticized as taking a cookie-cutter approach to education. It's up to you to be the judge.