Frequently Asked Questions Cont'd.
CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Charter schools are public schools that operate under a performance contract, or a “charter” which frees them from many regulations created for traditional public schools while holding them accountable for academic and financial results. The charter contract between the charter school governing board and the sponsor details the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies but most are granted for five years.
The Florida Legislature, in authorizing the creation of public charter schools, established the following guiding principles: high standards of student achievement while increasing parental choice; the alignment of responsibility with accountability; and ensuring parents receive information on reading levels and learning gains of their children. Charter schools are intended to improve student learning; increase learning opportunities with special emphasis on low performing students and reading; and measure learning outcomes. Charter schools may create innovative measurement tools; provide competition to stimulate improvement in traditional schools; expand capacity of the public school system; and mitigate the educational impact created by the development of new residential units.
CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE PIONEERS AND INNOVATORS
Charters allow creative parents, teachers and educational leaders to design schools that better serve particular populations. Charters can limit class and school size. Charter designers often heed to the research that states that small schools are generally safer and better able to nurture a community of learners than are large schools.
Charters select their own curriculum design. They can establish achievement-oriented cultures and choose staff to best support these structures from day one.
Charter schools are mission-driven schools created by educators who envision a school committed to a particular purpose and philosophy.
The tenor of relationships between charter schools and their districts vary widely. Ultimately accountable implementation of a charter schools’ mission is what best serves students. However, accountability need not be sacrificed for the very spirit of educational innovation and flexibility that the Charter Schools Act was intended to foster.
CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE APPEALING TO TEACHERS
Charters can harness the energy and creativity of innovative and experienced educators.
Because they are often founded and managed by teachers, charters facilitate relationships among teachers, teaching styles and students that optimize teacher skills and tailor them to student needs.
CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE OPEN TO ALL STUDENTS. THEY ARE:
Public, nonsectarian, nonreligious, non-home-based schools.
Non-selective in enrollment. There are no admission tests or admissions requirements.
Often designed to serve under-served populations.
Appealing to students whose needs are not being met by traditional schools.
Frequently over-enrolled; that is, more students apply than the school can accommodate. In that event, a lottery is held to determine admission.
CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE MEETING PARENTS' NEEDS BY PROVIDING EDUCATION CHOICE
Charter school legislation facilitates the right of parents to make informed choices about their child’s education. Each of Florida’s charter schools is distinct. They are all seeking innovative ways to run a public school, giving parents public school choice, proving that "one size does not fit all." Because parents CHOOSE charter schools, many feel a sense of ownership that, in turn, results in increased involvement and higher achievement.
CHARTERS ARE COMMITTED TO IMPROVING PUBLIC EDUCATION
Charter schools exist to provide educational opportunities not previously available, not because they are mandated to exist. As charter schools become more a part of their communities, they have started to demonstrate and share strong educational practices with other public schools.
Charters work through a unique trade-off of "autonomy for accountability." By experimenting with new measures of student achievement, charters are encouraging districts to look beyond standardized test scores for exclusive proof of student success.
Charters are building new models of community and parent involvement because, as schools of choice, they can see the importance of keeping their customers satisfied.
CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE NOT VOUCHERS FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS
Charter schools are schools of choice that are publicly funded and not affiliated with religious institutions. Vouchers are government-issued certificates for parents to redeem for a private schools education for their children.
Charter schools are subject to the same safety regulations, civil rights regulations, standardized testing, and financial accountability as other public schools.
Unlike some private schools, charter schools are open to enrollment of any and all students.
NATIONWIDE, CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE OPERATED BY AN EXCITING ARRAY OF NON-PROFIT GROUPS
Florida's law permits any group or person to petition to start a charter school. Charters in Florida have been launched by a broad variety of groups of teachers, parents and community activists, all of whom are highly motivated by the desire to actively create successful learning environments.
On a national level, cultural institutions, educational foundations, and community development corporations have all expressed interest in creating and/or created charter schools.
As we create more charters, communities will be able to tap a variety of providers to create schools where student success is more clearly defined and purposefully sought.