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We’ve been hearing a lot about charter schools lately. As funding and performance standards in conventional public school systems come under scrutiny, charter schools present an attractive alternative. But what is a charter school?
A charter school is a secular public school that creates its own “charter” or performance contract that outlines the school’s mission, program, students it will serve, and goals. One important aspect of a charter school is that the charter also spells out the methods of assessment and parameters for measuring success that will be used.
A charter school is able to operate without having to work within regulations that must be followed by a traditional public school. Even though this allows more freedom, charter schools still must answer to a state or local school board (a sponsor). They must adhere to the charter contract and show positive academic success.
The relative autonomy that creating a charter provides is balanced by the accountability standards to which the school must aspire. Most charters are granted for a time period of three to five years. At the time the contract expires, the school’s charter may be renewed.
The school must account for both its academic performance and fiscal responsibility. This accountability extends beyond the sponsor to both the parents who enrolled their children and the public that provides funding.