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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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.