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Charter Schools Offer an Array of Choices

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By GreatSchools Staff

Who starts charter schools?

Businesses, community leaders, teachers, parents, municipalities and school districts interested in creating an alternative education program can submit a charter proposal to the local school board. If a local school board denies the granting of a charter, the petition can be appealed to the county or state level. Upon approval, most charters are granted for an initial period of five years and receive funds from the state based on the number of students enrolled. After five years, the charter is reviewed and, provided that students are making academic progress and the school is fiscally accountable, the charter may be renewed for an additional five-year period.

What should I look for in a charter school?

Because charter schools are free to set their own discipline policies, personnel practices and build their own curriculum, here are a few questions you can use to ask the school principal to find out more about these areas:

  • What areas does the school emphasize in curriculum?
  • What is the school's approach to discipline?
  • How experienced are the teachers? How many are credentialed?
  • Why would this school be a better choice than a neighborhood school?
  • Who manages the school's budget? Is there an oversight committee?
  • What kind of parent involvement is required?

How do I enroll in a charter school?

Any child in the district can enroll in a charter school as long as there is space available. If space is limited, enrollment is done by lottery, although preference may be given to siblings of students currently enrolled and to the children of employees. Check with your local school district or particular school to find out registration dates and regulations.

Where can I find information about specific charter schools?

To find charter schools in your area, use the "Find any school's profile" search box at the top of our site to search by city or county. Charter schools are shown in a separate category under each district.

Comments from readers

"How to a find charter in my area for 9th grand "
"I actually graduated from a charter school and was not in the first quartile of the graduating class(not because of the failings of the school but of other schools before i transferred that did not let me develop) however the cirriculum i had at this school was much better than two previous public high schools i went to. Along with small class sizes about 8-20ish i found it easier to learn. I am currently a student at the University of Houston with a GPA of 3.22, i know it should be better but i had a hard time adjusting to 'the liberalism of college life', (i fooled around alot). None the less charter schools can change lives, it helped change mine but i was of an 18 year old adult when i made my return to education(i'm not ashamed to say that) after being a dropout. The only thing i have to say is to be careful of the charter school you choose and send your child to. I've heard horror stories at some and in the area where i reside about 3 i know of are on probation by the state. This school has also produced students that went on to UT, A&M and of course UH. Might i also add that of those graduates about 10% of that graduating class recived some type of academic scholarship. The other thing i would be concerned about is that there usually is little parental involvement and slight gang/sex culture but less prominent thatn large public high schools. However, teachers are very involved at the better institutions. Oh, i went and graduated from Southwest High School in Houston, TX. Feel free to email me about any questions. Thank You Hieu Nguyen "
"This sounds like a great alternative to public school. I had no idea Park was a charter school until I read this web site. I feel the children can definitely benefit from this learning environment. "
"Excellent! Great background and explanation. Thorough presentation. Thanks for the list of references and other information at the conclusion of the article."
"Excellent resources, and contact to other links to obtain valuable information for the interest of education to improve my childs needs. I am looking for an environment that will teach her the basics before jumping ahead into areas Middle School students are at. She is a third grader and has not developed the essential math, reading or history skills I expect at an Educational Institution. She is currently enrolled in a Public School, that revolves around socialization more than EDUCATION! Wish me luck in finding the best for her future accomplishments...#1 Education. I am hoping to enroll her in a Charter School...affordable. I would put her in a Private School if I had the funds. Once again, this site is indispensable! I grately appreciate the information! Sincerely, Tami Kolts"
"I appreciate the information in this website. My daughter is a Charter school member for 5 yrs now and I feel it has it's pros and cons. I don't condone yet I can't say I would recommend it to anyone. They do need to be seriously researched first!"
"I read the note on benefits written by Minnesota on 3/24/04. I bet the writer is a teacher. Also, what you say is true, but goes on in every industry. I am a fulll-time Mother of three boys, and a part-time Pharmacist. I have not had any benefits since I had my second child, 10 years ago. It's my choice, because to have benefits I would be at work so much I could not do a good job as a mother. I would rather work as a Volunteer at my boys school a few days a month than have to be at work as much as is required to have benefits. Also most indpendent Pharmacies provide better service and have more staff for a safer work pace than any chains I know of. That is also at a cost. They do not usually provide benefits. Since I get my health insurance through my husband, I choose to work part time and in a safe sane work place. I would guess that teachers who choose part-time work at Charter or private schools also do so for the same reasons. Perhaps they have benfits through a spouse and or have children themselves. Twice I have had my children taught by teachers who 'job shared'. All were mothers with children at the school. Not only did they do a great job, many events and field trips they both went. They were also usually fresh, ready for a challange, and appreciative of their volunteer parents. The Techs I work with tell me they look forward to working with me. The full-time men are often tired, burned out, and unresponsive. I have to be the best Pharmacist I can be when I am there, but I expect the same from my children's teschers. Some-times part-timers are better. They are only able to work part-time by choice and many times the reasons are personal. I support any Teacher one of my children has, whether they be male or female, full or part-time. Tennessee 8/24/04. "
"I just found this website, I feel that this is a very informative and up to date place to learn about the facts about each and every school out there. My son and daughter have been diagnosed with ADHD and has some behavioral problems, therefore, having those interfere with their learning and academics. The schools they currently go to is on the 'Needs Improvement List', I am looking into my other options so that they get the most out of their educational and social experience. It's very important for parents to have this kind of knowledge at their fingertips, more so for the child, children need to be challenged in order to excel and unfortunately, most public schools have very large class rooms and not enough time to focus on a special childs' needs. I think that this website is a great resource for parents and children, because education is crucial for a bright and promising future. It's our responsibility, as parents and as a community, to prepare our little ! ones for the world. I want to learn about Charter Schools and Home Schooling because my children deserve the best! "
"My daughter is three. I am searching for the most innovative option for her schooling. She has artistic parents who are open-minded and she is obviously creative and socially active already. At first, I was considering Waldorf but with all the positive remarks I've heard about charter schools in California, the spectrum of possibilities is broadening. "
"One fact not mentioned in the discussion of charter schools is that most of them tend to hire part-time teachers and provide minimal benefits to these teachers, such as retirement or health insurance. Any public school system could provide the extras that a similarly funded charter school can if it withheld benefits from its staff, but how long would you stay in your job if your benefits were severely cut and then were offered another with full benefits. Are you willing to send your children to a school that treats its teachers so shabbily? "
"It's important to emphasize the extraordinary variety of approaches used by charter schools. Some charters are designed around missions that are highly focused and thus strikingly shallow in in traditional academics. Other charters have heavy emphasis on building a foundation of knowledge for later learning, with rich academic content. Some charters use the most extreme progressivist teaching methods, others use structured teacher-centered strategies. In other words, be careful never to lump them together (or trust reports that lump them together) and find the one that is the right match for you and your child. "
"Great and quite helpful in finding the proper alternative to public school "
"Very useful. Thanks for putting this out there. "
"I am really wanting my son to go to a charter school. I feel like the public school system is letting parents down now. It is nice to get as much info. on charter schools as I can for my sons sake. "