What Are Public Charter Schools?

img_whatarecharterschoolsCharter schools are unique public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Because they are public schools, they are:
  • Open to all children;
  • Do not charge tuition; and
  • Do not have special entrance requirements.
Charter schools were created to help improve our nation’s public school system and offer parents another public school option to better meet their child’s specific needs. The core of the charter school model is the belief that public schools should be held accountable for student learning. In exchange for this accountability, school leaders should be given freedom to do whatever it takes to help students achieve and should share what works with the broader public school system so that all students benefit. In the early 1990s, a small group of educators and policymakers came together to develop the charter school model. Minnesota’s legislature passed the first charter law in 1991, and the first charter school opened in 1992.

Why Charter Schools?

Every child deserves a chance to succeed in college, careers, and life, which starts with a great education. All children should have the opportunity to achieve at a high level, and public charter schools are meeting that need:
  • Charter schools are some of the top-performing schools in the country.
  • Charter schools are closing the achievement gap. They are raising the bar of what’s possible—and what should be expected—in public education.
  • A higher percentage of charter students are accepted into a college or university.

How Do Charter Schools Work?

Charter schools foster a partnership between parents, teachers, and students. They create an environment in which parents can be more involved, teachers are allowed to innovate, and students are provided the structure they need to learn. Some specific examples of how charter schools are working to improve student achievement include:
  • Adjusting curriculum to meet student needs. A charter school can break up the day to provide students with more time on the core subjects they need most. Charter school teachers have a say in the curriculum they teach and can change materials to meet students’ needs.
  • Creating a unique school culture. Charter schools build upon the core academic subjects by creating a school culture or adopting a theme. For example, charter schools may focus on Science Technology Engineering or Math (STEM) education, performing arts, project-based learning, college preparation, career readiness, language immersion, civic engagement, classical education, global awareness, or meeting the needs of autistic students — just to name a few.
  • Developing next-generation learning models. Charter schools are rethinking the meaning of the word “classroom.” In Hawaii, students learn biology with the sky as their ceiling and the ocean as the classroom. Online schools, which don’t have a physical building, use technology to change the dynamics of the classroom. Other schools combine online classroom time with classroom time in a physical school building. In either case, students can learn from experts located anywhere in the world. Excellent charter school networks like KIPP and Uncommon Schools are codifying how to create an excellent teacher.