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What are Public Charter Schools?

Charter schools are independent public schools allowed freedom to be more innovative, while being held accountable for improved student achievement. They foster a partnership between parents, teachers and students to create an environment in which parents can be more involved, teachers are given the freedom to innovate and students are provided the structure they need to learn, with all three held accountable for improved student achievement. 

What makes charter schools public schools?
Public charter schools are intended to improve our nation’s public school system. Charter schools are public schools because, while they operate independently of the school district, they are:

  1. tuition-free and open to every student who wishes to enroll
  2. non-sectarian, and do not discriminate on any basis
  3. publicly funded by local, state and federal tax dollars based on enrollment, like other public schools
  4. held accountable to state and federal academic standards

How Do Charter Schools Work?
Charter schools are free to innovate in ways that improve student achievement. Here are some specific examples of how charter schools do it:
1. Offer longer school days. Charter schools are designed to be free to set their own operating hours. If the school strives to boost student achievement by giving students more time in the classroom, the school can offer classes into the evening, on weekends and into the summer months. 

2. Adjust curriculum to meet student needs. A charter school can breakup 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 frequently change materials mid-year if they need to in order to meet students’ needs. 

3. Create a unique school culture. Charter schools build upon the core academic subjects by creating a culture or adopting a theme. For example, there are charter schools focused on 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. 

4. Develop next generation learning models. Charter schools are completely rethinking the meaning of the word “classroom.” In Hawaii, students learn biology with the sky as their ceiling and the ocean as the classroom. Virtual schools, which exist completely online, use technology to change the dynamics of the classroom. Others combine virtual 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 management companies like KIPP and Uncommon Schools are codifying how to build excellent teacher education and professional development programs. 

Visit the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools for more information about Public Charter Schools.