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Charting the Waters of Charter Schools

 
 

 

 

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Charting The Waters

Where can you find children exploring the techniques of Picasso in a small group of mixed ages? Well perhaps at an art museum, but you may also find them learning in a Charter School. In many places, Public Charter Schools have become a viable alternative to traditional public school and even private school education.

.The charter school movement began more than 20 years ago with Minnesota passing the first charter school law followed by California and 17 other states ina matter of three years.  Since 1994, when the U.S. Department of Education began providing grants to support states’ charter school efforts the numbers have grown to 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico where over one million students are enrolled in 3,500 different schools. Though the reading of the law varies from state to state, all are based on the premise that our children are entitled to choice and a quality education.

.The National Study of Charter Schools reports that there are three main reasons credited for creating a charter school: to realize a particular educational vision; to gain autonomy; and /or to serve a specifically identified population. Public charter schools are initiated by parent organizations, teachers along with community members and certain entrepreneurs. Sometimes an already existing public school decides to apply for charter status in order to make changes in their educational practices which are not possible under the traditional public educational school system. The beauty of the charter school concept is that it allows for innovative curriculum and teaching practices to be put to work and allows for more parental and community involvement in educating our children.

.Charter schools are based on a “charter” or contract of performance which states the school’s mission, program and its goals, how meeting these goals will be assessed and ways of measuring the success of the program. While the charter school program may be more innovative than a traditional public school, they are held accountable not only to the state or local school board or other sponsor, but also the parents who chose them and the community that supports them with their tax dollars. This accountability includes items such as whether the students are performing better on standardized testing, have the students made significant academic gains, and how efficiently are the fiscal policies working.

.An important side benefit of the public charter schools is that they seem to be raising the standard for public education in general because of the competition they create. When parents choose a charter school over a traditional public school it can reflect in the local traditional public schools budget.  A decrease in enrollment can create a decrease in funding.

.Besides innovative teaching methods and programs, public charter schools generally have smaller class sizes which focus on the needs of their students and helping them to succeed—not just in a testing format (which studies show are one big advantage of charter schools over traditional public schools), but also in life skills such as communication. In addition, since many charter schools enlist the assistance of local businesses and community organizations to help provide resources and services, the community as a whole benefits in that the working together creates a bond of responsibility for the welfare of our children.

Whether you are looking for multi-age grouping, immersion in the performing arts or specific language or just a strong basic education program to help your child succeed, public charter education is an alternative you should consider.  Charter schools offer a choice and a challenge to the traditional public education schools. It is truly an option where everyone can gain.

 

 

 

 

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1 Comments

  1. Buffy Burger says:

    Many are looking at Charter schools as a way to avoid the high tuition of private schools and still receive a higher quality education. Thanks for your informative article.

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