As more students are enrolling in charter schools, it becomes important for parents to stay up-to-date on the educational options available to their kids. However, parents and students often misunderstand what charter schools are and how they benefit students and communities. In this article, we'll address these charter school pros and myths. Here are three things that all parents should know and the most common myths about sending your child to a charter school.
Charter School Pros
1 – Charter schools give choices to families
“Choice” is an important word when it comes to charter schools. While students are assigned a traditional public school based on their home address, the geographic boundaries for enrolling in a charter school are much wider. If a family can only afford to move into a neighborhood whose local traditional public school is not performing to their standards, charter schools offer a second option, ensuring a family’s zip code does not decide the quality of education their children receive.
2 – Charter schools foster innovation
Charter schools are independently managed, publicly funded schools operating under a ‘charter’ or a contract between the school and the state or jurisdiction, allowing for significant autonomy and flexibility. This autonomy comes provides more freedoms regarding budgeting, staffing, resources, and curriculum, allowing charter schools to craft more innovative education models designed to prepare students for college and career success.
3 – Charter schools help the entire community
Charter schools often partner with schools districts that have high concentrations of low-income, minority, and low-performing students to provide personalized support for these historically under-served students. By providing specialized help to students that have fallen behind, charter schools are able to raise the level of education across the whole community. Charter schools that are specially designed to help students who are at risk of dropping out can save the state millions of dollars. Options For Youth will have saved California communities $296 million over the lifetime of potential dropouts that OFY helped secure a high school diploma last year alone.
Charter School Myths (Debunked)
1 – Charter schools take money from public schools
This common critique of charter schools emphasizes the institution’s receipt of funds to educate students rather than students being the recipients of funds for their education. States distribute money to schools on a per-pupil basis. Think of it this way, each California public school student is given an amount of money to pay their school to educate them. If the student doesn't feel they are receiving a quality education or have unique personal or family circumstances, they are entitled to take their funds to a different school that they think better addresses their needs.
2 – Charter schools are less accountable
Charter schools are actually held to a much higher degree of accountability than traditional public schools. Charter schools have to prove financial responsibility and academic value, or else they will risk being closed. In exchange for the greater degree of autonomy (mentioned above) charter schools are granted, they must undergo a periodic review. The school must perform according to pre-determined criteria—which can include standardized test scores, graduation rates, college acceptance rate, and/or failure to keep up enrollment—the charter authorizer can mandate changes and even close the school.
3 – Charter schools steal the highest performing students from traditional schools
It is true that some charter schools, such as some science and technology magnets, have been known to attract the best performing and/or most affluent students from traditional public schools. Charter schools also, however, often partner with local school districts to offer personalized support programs to students who are at risk, have already dropped out, or struggle in traditional public school settings. A 2012 study found that, contrary to what critics of charter schools claim, traditional schools that had the highest number of students leave them for charter schools actually improved or remained the same on math and English standardized test scores.
It’s important that parents and students understand the benefits charter schools bring to the communities they serve. While some charter schools do attract affluent, high-performing students, others, like Options For Youth (OFY), are designed specifically to help students who are looking for a non-traditional classroom environment by offering one-on-one support, free tutoring, and flexible schedules. Enrollment in OFY is not limited by zip code (students residing in Los Angeles or its surrounding counties may enroll) and offers students a blended learning model that benefits a wide variety of learning styles. Visit OFY’s Program Features to learn more about OFY’s offerings.