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Charter Schools in Public Education Systems

What Parents Need to Know About Charter Schools

      The charter school craze has taken the country by storm.  Parents are flocking to enroll their children in charter schools in a desperate attempt to provide a safe and positive learning environment for their children.  Waiting list are status quo, and parents of children in traditional public schools are left wondering if their children are being left out and left behind. So the question of the day is ... what are charter schools exactly and why are they in such demand? "  

     A charter school is a deregulated public school.  It is typically authorized, or "chartered", by a public agency.  It also typically has more freedom and flexibility than a school can get through magnet status or waivers.  A charter school may not charge tuition and it may not discriminate.  Charter schools are typically smaller than regular schools and they have specific academic targets and themes to achieve as a part of their contract with the chartering entity.  Charter schools, focus on a new curriculum approach, a new school organization approach or some other features that set them apart from what a regular public school would offer.  The key components of a charter school include flexibility, no tuition, choice, public funding and achievement goals that must be met.  Differences in state laws account for diversities in the organization, operation and philosophies of charter schools nationwide.  Charter schools are public schools that are freed from many state and local regulations and rules but are held accountable for improving student achievement. 

     Charter Schools nationwide are receiving rave reviews by parents and many educators.  In June of this year,  the US Department of Education released two reports entitled, Challenge and Opportunity:  The Impact of Charter Schools on Districts, and A Study of Charter School Accountability showing that schools districts are changing their educational services and operations in response to the creation of charter schools in those districts. Rod Paige, US Secretary of Education, during a speech at the Manhattan Institute in New York City said, "Charter schools offer meaningful options for parents and their children, ..particularly for those children who would otherwise be left behind in low-performing schools."  Secretary Paige went on to say, "The good news is that charter schools do not just help the students they serve directly, they also prod the entire system to improve.  The districts studied are responding to competition by listening to parents, adding programs at other public schools, and more closely examining student achievement to determine what needs to be done to improve it.  This means better schools for all of our children."  Paige goes on to say, "The President's education proposal, No Child Left Behind, will move all public schools towards a focus on results and away from concentrating on rules and regulations,"  and "Charter schools are leading the way by illustrating that the best way to gain the confidence of families, teachers and supporters is to focus on quality instruction."

     In A Study of Charter School Accountability, the first extensive nationwide study of charter school accountability concludes that, .. being answerable to an oversight authority,.. promotes internal accountability,.. including productive working relationships and better coordination among teachers, administrators and students.

     Recently, Charter Schools have come under negative scrutiny by organizations like the American Federation of Teachers.  If continued examination proves that charters are not the "new and improved" version of public education as originally proclaimed, many parents will undoubtedly feel like they've lost the one hope they had for a  positive learning environment for their children within the public school system.  

Resources:  US Department of Education News: June 14, 2001 ,   ERIC Digest: Charter Schools: An Approach for Rural Education? ED425896


The Center for Education Reform
How Do Charter Schools Differ From Traditional District Public Schools?
Charter schools operate on three basic principles:

  • Choice: Charter schools give families an opportunity to pick the school most suitable for their child’s educational well-being. Teachers choose to create and work at schools where they directly shape the best working and learning environment for their students and themselves. Likewise, charter sponsors choose to authorize schools that are likely to best serve the needs of the students in a particular community.
  • Accountability: Charter schools are judged on how well they meet the student achievement goals established by their charter contract. Charter schools must also show that they can perform according to rigorous fiscal and managerial standards. If a charter school cannot perform up to the established standards, it will be closed.
  • Freedom: While charter schools must adhere to the same major laws and regulations as all other public schools, they are freed from the red tape that often diverts a school’s energy and resources away from educational excellence. Instead of constantly jumping through procedural hoops, charter school leaders can focus on setting and reaching high academic standards for their students.

Some charter school programs focus on the basics — reading, writing and the traditional school subjects that some children struggle with. Other schools have special arts or music programs. Some charters look just like other public schools. There also are dropout prevention programs, adult education programs, charters that serve Head Start and day care needs, and charters that work with children who want to go to college

To read this article in full, click here.

Excellent Information Source to Locate District Schools


US Dept of Education:
The State of Charter Schools  
                                Partial Topic Listings - Please see site for complete Table of  Contents

States and Charter Schools

bullet The Expanding Charter School Movement
bullet State Charter Legislation
bullet Newly Created and Pre-existing Charter Schools
bullet Basic Characteristics of Charter Schools
bullet School Size
bullet Grade Level Configuration
bullet Student to Teacher Ratio
bullet Computers for Instruction
bullet Students of Charter Schools
bullet Student Racial/Ethnic Composition
bullet School Racial/Ethnic Distribution
bullet Student Eligibility for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch
bullet Students with Disabilities
bullet Limited English Proficient Students
bullet Starting, Implementing, and Being Accountable
bullet Autonomy and Control
bullet Autonomy and Choice of Service Providers
bullet External Accountability and Monitoring
bullet Accountability and Student Assessment


National Education Association:  
Charter Schools                                                                                      

Failures spur review of charter school laws (excerpt)
Charter schools are part of the landscape of public education. According to the Education Commission of the States, as of August 2001 there were more than 2,300 public charter schools serving more than 500,000 students nationwide. The Commission reported that 37 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws providing funding and permitting charter schools to operate. However, many of those statutes are being revisited and revised in light of a number of charter school failures, some with disastrous consequences for students.

Problems plague some charter schools (excerpt)
The lack of adequate accountability provisions in some state laws, and in some cases ineffective monitoring, have led to significant problems and abuses by some charter school operators. (American Federation of Teachers)
Charter Schools (excerpt)  

If the goal is improved student achievement, students in some charter schools are not faring very well. Studies of charter schools in Texas and Arizona show that there has been no evidence of improved student performance among charter school students. A 1998 UCLA study of California charter schools found that charter schools rarely had clearly defined goals or standards and none was "doing more with less" money. In addition, the charter schools exerted considerable control over the types of students they serve. Unlike other public schools, they’re not taking all comers. In Michigan, researchers found that because of weak monitoring efforts, poorly performing charter schools are not likely to be closed.

Some of the trends highlighted in a recent study of Michigan charter schools illustrate the need for careful oversight of charter schools. The study found that charter schools were selective of their student populations (even though they are public schools), served fewer low-income children than traditional public schools, and employed less-experienced teachers.

Education Yellow Flag

(excerpt) Since 1991, 40 states have enacted laws allowing for the creation of charter schools—independent public schools of choice that are freed from many regulations but accountable for their results. There are now 2,700 schools that serve some 600,000 students in 34 states and the District of Columbia (see Figure 1), with cities like Washington, D.C., and Dayton, Ohio, now enrolling upwards of 17 percent of all their children in these new institutions.

While such numbers are impressive—a decade ago there were no charter schools—we also see worrisome indications that the charter movement is in trouble. In July 2002, Newsweek reported that a raft of recent charter “reports find that too often, charters haven’t lived up to their end of the bargain.” A Brookings Institution study released in September 2002 concluded that student performance in charter schools was significantly lower than that of district schools on state tests in reading and math.   (More)





School Choice

Charter Schools
Magnet Schools
School Vouchers
Charter School Programs

ERIC Digest
Charter Schools

Charter Schools

Charter Schools USA

US Charter

US Charter
State Maps

National Charter Schools Institute

NEA:  Charter Schools

Center for Education Reform's Annual Survey of America's Charter Schools

CER's Charter School Closures

Yahoo News Stories: School Choice and Tuition Vouchers

The Fordham Foundation: 
Personnel Policy in Charter Schools

Kidsource Online: 
A Guide To Enrollment And Success In Charter Schools

US Dept. of Challenge and Opportunity:
The Impact of Charter Schools on School Districts -
Analysis critical of charter schools

NEA:  The Charter School Movement

ERIC Digest:
Charter Schools: An Approach for Rural Education


























































































































































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