It takes more than just building a high-quality charter school to enroll students and make parents happy. When it comes down to deciding where to send your child to school, don’t panic. You may start to feel overwhelmed with the plethora of options, but simply by determining your child’s specific needs, you can figure out if a charter school is the best fit.
Defining the Difference Between Public Schools and Charter Schools
It all starts with defining what is a charter school. A charter school is a an independently managed, publically funded school which operates under a “charter” or a contract between the school and the state or jurisdiction which allows for autonomy and flexibility.
Charter schools are often smaller than mainstream schools, and may have a particular focus, such as business or science. Instead of being assigned a public school based on your region, charter schools are schools of choice. They operate with freedom from some of the regulations that are imposed upon district schools in exchange for academic results and for upholding the promises made in their charters.
Just like public schools, charter schools are absolutely free. However, charter schools are based on a different system than both private schools and the district public schools. If applications to attend a charter school exceed spaces available, the enrollment is deemed by a lottery system.
Identify Your Child’s Needs
Does your child need more individual attention, or does your child learn and work well without one-on-one attention all the time? Charter schools are typically smaller in size than traditional public schools. Unfortunately with smaller schools come limited resources. Charter schools often lack the facilities or extracurricular resources that a conventional public school can offer, such as art, music, and creative writing.
Charter schools, unlike public schools, have more room for growth and development so your child can get the absolute best education and be at his or her happiest.
Often, charter schools don’t have access to capital or facilities funding, or they may receive less than districts do from these funding sources. They do not usually have access to grant funds for specific activities or purposes. In states without centralized systems to oversee dispersal of funds to charters, charters usually receive less than statute requires or intends.
Performance Rates Are Up in Charter Schools
A report by the National Charter School Resource Center reports that in four out of five studies, charter students overall perform better in math and reading. In all five studies, low-income charter students perform better in math and reading (4 of 5 studies). In two out of three studies, charter students with low prior achievement perform better.
Charter school regulations vary greatly from state to state along with the state-level achievement tests, which makes it difficult to compare school results or draw conclusions on a national basis. Parents who choose charters are often drawn to their small size and personalized learning environments, regardless of the numbers on academic performance.
Recognize the Workforce Behind Charter Schools
The workforce is more diverse than district schools for charter schools. Often charter schools employ younger administrators, teachers and paraprofessionals. However, these employees may not necessarily be certificated as their public school counterparts.
Virtually anyone can submit an application to open and operate a charter school: Parents, educators, business leaders, service organizations, and teachers have started charter schools in the United States. Charter schools are started when community members see an educational need and decide to address it in hopes for change and improvement.
Every charter school is required by law to have a board of directors that is ultimately responsible for what the school does. The Board oversees the operations of the school and makes sure it is financially sound. The Board is usually made up of parents whose children attend to charter school to help create the vision for how the school should operate.
Teachers choose charter schools because these schools help them avoid the frustrations of constant bureaucracy. In addition to hiring the same certified teachers as traditional public schools, charter schools can hire qualified individuals that often have significant professional experience in their subject area, but may not be traditionally certified as a teacher. This allows many charter schools to offer an education combined with real-world experience.
Take Into Account the Future of Charter Schools
In the United States, there are over 6,800 charter schools (more than triple the number in 2000), and these schools make up 6% of total public enrollment. An estimated 3 million children attend charter schools across the country in a variety of many settings — rural, urban, and suburban.
Charter schools served 6% of U.S. K-12 students in 42 states as of the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. In admissions, these schools must be non-discriminatory and serve all students, including those with disabilities.
In the United States, charter schools are funded at 64% of their distinct counterparts. On average, charter schools are funded at $7,131 per pupil, compared to $11,184 per pupil at conventional district public schools.
Ask Questions and Seek Statistics
Remember to ask questions and ask the ones that matter the most to you. Do your research prior, so you know which questions to ask that you may not necessarily think about off the top of your head. Ask questions such as, “Where does the school get its funding?” And, “Is the school financially stable?”
Don’t be left in the dark when it come to picking the best fit for your child. Just as you make the decision to purchase something as important as a home or a car, you need to make that same decision when it comes to an education.
Shop Around and Visit the Schools
If you’ve decided that a charter school is the best fit for your child, don’t just settle on one based on its qualifications. Once you’ve narrowed your options down, make an appointment to visit each school with your child.
If you’re happy but your child isn’t with the school, then where’s the benefit there? The quality of the education at charters can also vary a lot from school to school. Be sure to do your research and seek information and resources about charter schools in your state.
Making a Choice in Your Child’s Education
Charter schools provide an alternative to the cookie-cutter district school model. Charters succeed because they operate on the principles of choice and autonomy not readily found in traditional public schools. If your child has more specific needs and you think he or she would benefit from attending a charter school, make sure you look around to figure out the best fit for your child.
Some parents use charter schools as a form of choice in their child’s education. Instead of their child going to their local neighborhood school, they can choose to send their child to a charter school, which may have better performance and/or other services, such as enhanced technology, which is not offered within the district.