Charter Schools

The first charter schools in the United States opened in Minnesota in 1991. Since that time, more than 2700 charter schools are operating nationally, with 39 states and the District of Columbia having laws regulating charter schools. These schools serve hundreds of thousands of students across the country. Charter schools are required to be non profit, non discriminatory, not religious affiliated, and not home based.

Charter schools are among the options considered by parents who seek greater choice in educational options for their children. They are public schools, and they must meet accountability standards set in place by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965) and amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (2001) States can set some more flexible guidelines for charter schools than for traditional public schools, as long as the charter schools meet the national minimum standards. A characteristic of many charter schools is that they are often small schools serving a wider age range than the local public school counterpart.

Statistics from the federal Department of Education show that test scores of students in charter schools where the majority of teachers are state certified tend to be higher than the scores of those students enrolled in schools where teachers are not state certified. The scores improve when teachers have 5 or more years of experience, as compared to schools where the majority of the teachers are new.

When choosing a charter school for your child, it is important to consider the qualifications of the teachers, the class size, the curriculum, and the sustainability of the charter. If a school does not meet minimum accountability standards, the charter can be revoked and the school closed. Go into it with your eyes open and your expectations high!

Public concerns about charter schools center around accountability and money. Do they divert resources from existing public schools? Do they improve opportunities available to students?

Let’s hear from parents whose children are enrolled in charter schools. What are your experiences? Your concerns? The results for your children?