how do charter schools work

What Is a Charter School? – Pros, Cons and How They Work

Charter schools have been getting a lot of attention in both the media and educational sectors, though much of the public is still unfamiliar with the role of charter schools and how they operate.

As they become more popular, many families have questions about whether or not a charter school is right for their children. We here at Rhodes School for the Performing Arts would like to address some of those questions.

What is a Charter School?

A charter school is a publicly funded school of choice, meaning that families choose this option for their children and are not bound by their school zones. The main difference between a public school and a charter school is that, though both schools are publicly funded, charter schools are not run by a public school board. Charter schools also offer tailored curricula which are often not found in public schools.

The group of individuals running a charter school can be a not-for-profit organization, a business, or even a board of teachers and community members. All charter schools operate under a contract or “charter” that outlines how the school will be managed, as well as the expectations in both academics and enrollment that the school must meet to continue to operate.

Are Charter Schools Public Schools?

The short answer is yes, charter schools are public schools. Similar to public schools, charter schools must be secular schools and are required to serve all students. So while these schools operate separately from the public schools in the area, they are not allowed to have any specific admissions criteria.

Are Charter Schools Funded by the Government?

Charter schools receive money from both the state and local government, as well as the federal government. Many also receive funding through private donations from both corporations, as well as individuals who are passionate about education. They are also eligible for public funding under Title I to serve any special needs students that the school may enroll.

Is There Tuition for Charter Schools?

Charter schools are public, which means they are tuition-free. This is made possible by the public funding and private donations that charter schools receive.

Do Charter Schools Take State Tests?

Charter schools are held to the same standards as public schools in the area in which they are located. Therefore, students at these schools must take classes that conform to the state standards of their home state and must take all the state standardized testing at the end of each school year.

Students at a charter school must attend classes that follow all state requirements and standards as a result. There are also often extra measures of academic progress that students at charter schools must meet as part of the school’s charter.

Why Charter Schools?

The first charter school law in the United States was enacted in Michigan in 1991, with many other states following suit shortly after. But why were charter schools created to begin with?

Charter schools have been opened for a variety of reasons. Some schools have been opened in areas in which there has not been enough capacity in the local public schools to serve all the students in that area. Others have been opened to serve special populations of students such as those interested in the arts, music, theater, and dance, as well as science, technology, and mathematics.

Charter schools have also been opened by teachers who felt like students were not being served well at the public institutions available in their area. As a result, charter schools lead in the ranking of America’s Most Challenging High Schools published each year by the Washington Post as well as the US News and World Report’s ranking of the country’s best public schools.

How Do Charter Schools Work?

Charter schools begin as an idea for what would make a great school. The details of the running, funding of the school, measurements of academic progress, and expectations of students at the school are laid out in the school’s charter during the founding period. The school is then approved by the local authorizers, who have the ability under state law to approve charter schools and provide oversight to ensure they are run according to their charters.Charter schools are held to the same academic standards as the public schools in their area as well as all of the additional requirements outlined in their charters. Schools that do not meet these requirements within the time frame set forth by the authorizers in their state are in danger of having their charters revoked and being unable to operate.

Charter Schools Vs. Public Schools – Pros and Cons

Several advantages and disadvantages might arise if your children attend a charter school.

Pros

Tailored Curricula

Charter schools have many benefits for students who choose to attend them. A charter school is not a one-size-fits-all option like most public schools. Many charter schools tailor their charter and curriculum to fit a specific niche of students or a course of study that may not be available in a public school setting.

For students who have not had success in a traditional school setting, charter schools can offer the opportunity to thrive. For example, Rhodes School for the Performing Arts offers an exceptional performing arts program that is not found in neighboring public schools.

Room for Innovation

Charter schools are staffed with qualified teachers, with many schools directed by the teachers themselves who have the best interests of their students at heart.  Because of the flexibility offered by charter schools, these teachers can tailor the methods they use to ensure students receive the best education possible. These schools can try new and more innovative methods of education that aren’t always an option for teachers at public schools.

Smaller Classrooms

Charter schools are often able to offer a smaller class size and a lower student to faculty ratio than most public schools can offer. This brings out a family atmosphere in charter schools opposed to the more institutional atmosphere at many public schools. This often results in charter school students feeling more cared for, and consequentially becoming more invested in their own education and the school affairs.

Cons

Less Competitive Athletic Teams

Depending on your child’s needs and goals, sometimes charter schools are not always the best option. For example, given the typically smaller student population of charter schools, they may not be a great fit for students interested in sports due to their limited selection of athletics teams. There may also be a limited selection of after-school extracurricular activities depending on the focus of the school. So while charter schools may be the perfect fit for some kids, they’re not a one-size-fits-all.

Reliance on Fundraising

In addition to the public and private funding that charter schools seek, some schools also expect parents to take an active role in fundraising initiatives. There may also be mandatory volunteer hours expected of parents to qualify their children for enrollment, which sometimes poses a challenge for working parents.

Rhodes School for the Performing Arts does not have this requirement but it welcomes volunteers and encourages parent-involvement.

Limited Transportation

Families may be required to provide their own transportation at many charter schools because of the wider geographic area that they serve when compared to public schools. Additionally, some charter schools do not have the funding to provide busing to their student population.

Rhodes School for the Performing Arts does offer transportation. You may learn more about our school transportation here.

Inconsistent Performance

All in all, charter schools have been a somewhat controversial topic since their inception in the 1990s. Overall, the majority of charter schools have been a much better fit for the population they serve in comparison to their standard public school counterparts. However, given their flexible curricula, charter schools have produced outcomes ranging from wild successes to miserable failures. Of course, it is up to the parents to do their due diligence when choosing a school for their child.

Are Charter Schools Better than Public Schools?

Charter schools where students are required to attend a physical campus typically perform at a similar or higher level on state standardized testing than their public counterparts. In addition, they have a lower rate of disciplinary issues and a lower student dropout rate.

Rhodes School for the Performing Arts is a publicly funded charter performing arts school in Houston, Texas that serves students from Pre-K through eighth grade. We have celebrated our 11th year in education and we look forward to many more decades of success.

If you feel that charter schooling might be a good fit for your student, and are interested in learning more about Rhodes School, please visit our website to learn about admission.

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