Many parents want an educational option for their children besides attending a private school. Fortunately, there are a lot of charter schools and other choices now available to parents because of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund, the largest-ever federal competitive investment in school reform.
What a Charter School Is
A charter school is a publicly funded, independently operated school. As such, you won’t pay for your child to attend school here and any child can attend if the school has room for them. These schools are typically autonomous, so they’re smaller and tend to have a specific focus (e.g. business, music, science, art). In this way they’re different from the traditional public school, but they’re not necessarily better or worse than a public school.
Since these schools tend to operate outside the state school board’s auspices, they’re held accountable via a self-written charger that the state must approve of. This will allow for the school to try new educational methods and teaching models. For instance, parents are oftentimes required to volunteer at the school – something that helps with building community.
These schools are often quite small, which is beneficial to any child in need of more individualized attention. Unfortunately, this may also mean the school doesn’t have the same facilities or extracurricular resources as a traditional public school has though.
How to Choose a Charter School
When you decide that this type of education is right for your child, your next step lies in determining which school you want your child to attend. There are some steps that will help guide you to the right choice here. They include:
- Identify your child’s needs as each school caters to different interests and abilities. This is difficult to do when your child is in preschool or kindergarten, which is why you may want to start with sending them to a traditional public school initially. After you have the opportunity to monitor their development, decide what your priorities are, and discover what their abilities are, you’ll be better prepared to select the right learning environment for them.
- Narrow down your options. Look at the grades the schools you’re interested in received from the Center for Education Reform so you know how much money the school receives and to whom it’s accountable. Try to choose a charter school that’s close to home since you’ll probably need to live in the district where the school is located. Look at their mission statement to ensure that their principles and goals align with yours. Talk to parents whose children attend the school and check your state’s Department of Education website for the school’s report card.
- Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to visit these schools. Make an appointment to tour it with your child to see how they’ll react to the environment. While there you should take the opportunity to ask questions like is the school independently run or part of a larger charter management association; where funding comes from; and if they’re financially stable.
Be prepared to wait. Since there’s open enrollment, there’s no admissions tests so if there’s space for your child they can attend the school but otherwise they’ll be entered into a lottery to determine who can attend the school.
Knowing that you have a choice when it comes to your child’s education is great, but it can also feel overwhelming sometimes. Hopefully these tips will help you determine if a charter school is the right choice for you and your family. If you still have questions though, make sure to reach out to the Education Resource Partner to get the answers you need.