Charter Schools vs. Traditional School
Charter schools are defined by the U.S. Department of Education (as cited in Marshall, Gibbs, Greene, Nelson and Schofield, 2001) as “public schools that are under contract from some public agency” (p. 129). ? Charter schools fit in a niche between private and public schools. They are funded with public money (except for their facilities) and they are an alternative to regular public schools systems. A private group of people can submit and get approved a charter to run their own school. Charter schools receive waivers from public school districts in exchange for promising better academic results. Charters are usually given for 3-5 years, where an eye is kept on academic performance. If academic performance lags behind comparable public schools, then the “charter” is pulled and the school is closed. Therefore, the reasons for and mission of charter schools may differ by school. State boards of education have remained open to varying philosophies of educational approaches. In many states a charter can be obtained by submitting an acceptable proposal to the state board of education. If the board sees the proposal as a benefit to the current public school system, then it will most likely grant the charter (Marshall, et. al., 2001). The first charter school law was enacted in Minnesota in 1991 and had the purpose of giving educators the chance to found schools that would operate as non-profit organizations (Wronkovich, 2000). A survey of directors and founders of charter schools (as cited by Fusarelli, 2002) listed several major motives for the establishment of charter schools, including: (a)autonomy in educational programming,(b) a desire to serve a special student population, (c) realization of an educational vision, (d) a desire to provide a better teaching and learning environment, (e) instructional innovation, (f) a desire to involve parents, and (g) the autonomy to develop nontraditional relationships with the community (p. 20). Charter schools are run by independent boards that, because of the lack of government regulation, get a great deal of control in setting the curriculum and teaching methods used in a particular school (Hassel, 1999).
Much like traditional public schools, charter schools receive funding based on their student enrollment. As long as a charter school fulfills the terms of their contract their charter will not be revoked (Good & Braden, 2000). Charters are infrequently revoked because of poor student performance. Only four percent of granted charters have been revoked nationally and that termination usually stems from poor financial management. Similar to traditional public schools, charter schools have to submit a yearly report of finances, and indices of progress toward educational goals and parental and student satisfaction (Fusarelli, 2002).
The differences between charter schools and traditional public schools are many. The first major difference is size, as the average enrollment at a charter school is only 300 students. Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools can lengthen the school day, apply a dress code or uniforms, theme the school’s curriculum around a particular subject, and even operate as a single-sex institution (Fusarelli, 2002). Charter schools also can feature non-typical grade configurations, the employment of certified and non-certified instructors and a favorable student-to-computer ratio (Wronkovich, 2000).
Advantages and Disadvantages
What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with charter schools? The answer to the aforementioned question depends a lot on whom you ask. People who favor the formation of charter schools suggest that allowing the school to function without the limitations put on traditional public schools by local and state government will allow educators and administrators the flexibility to create effective education programs for students. They also claim...
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