What Is a Charter School?

A charter school is an independently run public school with greater flexibility in its operations, and for greater accountability for performance. The “charter” that establishes each school is a performance contract detailing the school’s program, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessment.

Why Charter Schools Succeed?

Why do charter schools succeed, even in the most underserved areas? The answer is in the way they’re structured. Charter schools are granted the flexibility to operate in exchange for accountability of students achievement. They are granted the flexibility to design and run schools for fixed periods of time.  However, they must be transparent with their academic and financial performance and meet strict academic standards in order to continue to stay open. Therefore, charter schools are highly motivated to improving student performance, and that’s the accountability piece. It’s this policy framework that allows  educational outcomes to improve for students. Because of the flexibility in how they’re structured, charter schools can make changes as they learn what works best. Traditional public schools don’t have the same flexibility. It is crucial to close charter schools that aren’t doing well, making way for new schools to take their place. This is one of the most important innovations to public schools in decades.

Are Charter Schools All The Same?

No. Charter schools can vary a great deal in their design and results.

How Are Charter Schools Funded?

Charter schools are public schools. Like district public schools, they are funded according to enrollment (also called average daily attendance, or ADA), and receive funding from the district and the state according to the number of students attending.

What’s The Difference Between a Charter School, Public School, and Private School?

Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that families choose them for their children. They operate with freedom from some of the regulations that are imposed upon district schools. Charter schools are accountable for academic results and for upholding the promises made in their charters. They must demonstrate performance in the areas of academic achievement, financial management, and organizational stability. If a charter school does not meet performance goals, it may be closed.

Private schools, on the other hand, are self-funded and primarily rely on tuition, grants, donations, and endowments. They are completely autonomous and can offer curriculum not regulated by state standards.

Can Charter Schools Deny Low-Performing Students?

Charter schools are public schools and thus must accept any students who are eligible to attend. Just like public schools, they are not allowed to prevent students from attending their school. If the charter school is oversubscribed however, meaning more students apply for positions in the charter school than are eligible, the charter school will hold a random lottery for admittance. It may not pick and choose students who are based on arbitrary criteria like test scores, family income, or English proficiency.

Some Key Facts:

  •   Charter schools succeed because they operate within the framework of

flexibility and accountability.

  •   Charter schools improve student achievement even in impoverished areas.
  •   Charter schools are allowed to be flexible in how they operate in exchange for

being accountable for their results.

  •   Charter schools that do not improve student achievement should be closed in

order to allow better performing schools to take their place.