Charter Schools Explained

by A Guest

Charter schools are a unique aspect of the public education system. They are attended by choice, as a different option for parents and students. Charter schools often have a special focus, such as the arts, sciences, or technology, and are a place where alternative or innovative learning styles are tried. Charter schools must follow state or provincial curriculum standards, but have a lot more educational freedom than other public schools. For example, they report to the province or state directly, instead of a local school board.

In Canada, only one province has charter schools available. That province is Alberta. In the United States, 42 states have legislature that allows for charter schools, but only 38 states currently have charter schools running. Charter schools are not that old, for the first charter school in North America was established in 1991 in Minnesota. A few examples of charter schools are the Almadina Language Charter Academy in Calgary AB (which focuses on ESL learners), the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (which is an on-line school), Wildflower Open Classroom Charter School (which emphasizes collaborative learning), and the Calgary Girls School (which focuses on learning from the female perspective).

There are many advantages to charter schools. They often challenge standard educational practices with innovative strategies and specialized instruction. Since they have more freedom than public schools, charter schools can try new programs, schedules, etcetera. Charter schools have the ability to target specific genders, ethnicities, at-risk children, or gifted students. Class sizes are often smaller, and more individual attention is available for students. Because charter schools are optional, and often offer a unique educational focus, students are found to be more motivated in these types of schools. As well, student achievement is a priority because charter schools depend on willing attendance to keep the school open. Because charter schools report to the state or province instead of a local board, they have less bureaucratic ‘hoops’ to jump through. Charter schools can also uniquely mould themselves to the needs of the community they are in.

But charter schools are far from perfect. Since they are not always included in regular teacher unions, teachers often lack protection and job security. Teachers may also have longer hours, more responsibilities, and job pressure. It might not be a surprise, then, that charter schools have a higher teacher turnover rate than public schools. Also on the negative side, charter schools often have more financial and management problems. Sometimes charter school principles are less qualified or experienced at running a different type of school. Initial buildings for charter schools might not be the best because charter schools are not the easiest type of school to start. Also, charter schools are not always available for middle school and high school students. According to SRI International research, 55% of children enrolled in charter schools are in grade K-8. Because charter schools target unique needs, they also leave out certain aspects of learning or society. To some people, charter schools are seen as having fewer clubs, options, and diversity.

By Angela Moore, chief writer of (



This post was written by A Guest

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