If you’re a parent or provider of early childhood development and care, chances are you’ve heard charter schools mentioned in conversations about education. But what is a charter school, exactly? And what makes these schools different from other institutions? Read on to learn more about charter schools and why they might be the right fit for your family.
What Is a Charter School?
Charter schools are a type of public school that is funded by the government but operated independently. They are usually created in response to a need in the community, and often have a specific focus or curriculum. A charter school can be for-profit or non-profit and can be run by individuals, groups, or organizations.
The first charter school in the United States opened in Minnesota in 1992. As of 2017, there were more than 6,800 of these schools operating in the country, serving more than 3 million students.
Although they have more freedom than traditional public schools in areas such as curriculum and budgeting, they still must adhere to the same state standards and are funded by taxpayer dollars. Schools are given a charter, or a contract, specifying the goals and performance expectations of the school.
Charter schools also usually have open enrollment policies, which means that anyone can attend them, regardless of where they live or what school they would otherwise be assigned to.
What Are the Advantages of Charter Schools?
The biggest advantage of charter schools is that they offer parents more choices in where their children attend school. This is especially important for parents who don’t live near a good traditional public school or who want their children to have a specific type of education (e.g., Montessori, Waldorf). Charter schools also often have smaller class sizes than traditional public schools, which can be beneficial for students who need more individual attention.
Additionally, many charter schools have innovative curriculums that focus on hands-on learning and project-based learning, which can be appealing to students who learn best this way. Finally, tuition isn’t required to attend a charter school, making them an affordable option for families with budgetary concerns.
There are also some disadvantages to attending a charter school. One disadvantage is that not all charter schools are created equal—some may be better than others. So parents need to do their research before deciding if a charter school is right for their child. Additionally, because charter schools are autonomous, they don’t always have the same resources as traditional public schools. For example, some charters may not have enough money to offer transportation or after-school programs.
What Makes a Charter School Curriculum Different?
Charter schools have more autonomy than traditional public schools and can be tailored to fit the needs of their students. There are many different types of charter schools, but they all share a few common features. They must be open to all students, they cannot charge tuition, and they must comply with state and federal education laws.
A charter school can offer a variety of curricula, including classical education, Montessori education, or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) education. Some schools specialize in serving students with special needs or who are English Language Learners.
How to Choose a Charter School
Before choosing a charter school, it’s important to research the schools in your area. You might want to consider the size of the school and student body, the curriculum, and any special education programs offered. It’s also a great idea to visit the school and speak to instructors and administrators about what sets their institution apart. Call ahead to see if you need to schedule a tour, and bring a list of questions to ask.