A charter school is a privately managed public school that is free from many of the rules and regulations imposed by state and local education and governmental agencies. In exchange for this freedom, charter schools are held accountable for student performance.
A state legislature creates a charter law, which gives specific authorizers, such as public school districts and universities, the right to grant charters to foundations, community organizations, or other groups. The charter is a contract between the group that wants to operate a school and the authorizing organization; it details the school's mission, the student population the school will serve, and the ways the school will measure performance, among other things. Once a group earns a charter, that group can either manage its own school programs or contract with another organization to manage the school programs.
There are several similarities between a charter school and a traditional public school. Both are funded by public dollars. As it does with failing traditional public schools, the city has the right to close a poorly performing charter school.
Charter schools offer many benefits to students, parents, teachers, and communities. At a charter school, decisions about how best to serve students aren't made at a district office; instead, those decisions are made in the school by teachers and administrators who know the student population they serve. Educators have more freedom to innovate and more local control than educators at traditional public schools, which means they can tailor their lessons and educational plans to their students' needs.
Beyond serving students with innovative education techniques and an emphasis on student achievement and outcomes, charter schools provide an important benefit to school systems. Because a parent must choose to enroll his or her child in a charter school—as opposed to being assigned a neighborhood school by the local school district—the charter school introduces choice and competition into the school system. It forces neighboring schools to compete for students (and the state dollars that come with them), and competition inspires improved performance.
As urban education in America falters, charter schools offer one of several hopeful solutions. Most urban centers across the country are struggling to graduate even half of their high school students. We can no longer assume that using the same educational models will produce different results. We believe that as charter schools introduce innovations, such as lengthening the school day, extending the school year, and evaluating teachers' effectiveness by examining students' achievement over time, we can drastically improve the quality of urban education.
Variety makes choice a possibility. Choice ensures competition and ultimately leads to higher quality and unique innovation as competitors strive to gain a market advantage.
The introduction of Charter Schools has helped push education to behave in this manner, forcing schools to provide a quality education for our children, or risk parents and families choosing somewhere else to educate their children.