Charter schools are free public schools that are independent of school districts through contracts with state or local boards. As public schools, charter schools are open to all children, do not require entrance exams, cannot charge tuition, and must participate in state testing and federal accountability programs.
Charter schools are…
- Exempt from certain state or local rules and regulations
- Governed by a group or organization, instead of by the state education board
- Accountable to a charter, which is a performance contract, and are obligated to meet standards in the charter in order to receive funding and maintain autonomy
Charter schools have more flexibility than public schools in designing their curricula. This type of flexibility can take several forms:
- Teachers can adjust the curriculum and class materials to fit students’ needs
- Some schools create a theme or an overall focus for their curricula, such as STEM education, performing arts, college prep, or language immersion
- Some schools’ concept of the physical classroom can take several forms, such as traveling outdoors or taking online classes
Students must apply and be accepted, sometimes through a lottery system if the school cannot accommodate all the applicants.
A group of people—which could include parents, community leaders, teachers, school districts, or municipalities—submit a charter, which is a performance contract outlining the school’s mission, assessment methods, and performance goals as they relate to the state and federal standards.
This charter is reviewed by authorizers, which, depending on state laws, can be any of the following: state board of education, education agencies, higher ed institutions, and local school districts. Authorizers are held accountable for the performance of the charter school, and the charter must be renewed every few years.
Charter schools receive their funds by getting state-approved charters. If a charter is approved, funding is allotted on a per pupil basis. They are primarily publicly funded, but can still receive private funding.
Not necessarily. Most states require certification for all teachers, but certain states will define certification differently. For example, Massachusetts requires their teachers to achieve Highly Qualified teachers status with a bachelor’s degree that demonstrates a mastery of the subject matter they’re teaching.