What are charter schools?

Charter schools are public schools. They are tuition-free and open to any student who wishes to attend. Charter schools allow parents, organizations, or community groups to restore, reinvent, and reenergize our public school system. Charter schools are designed, tailored, and governed by each local community, rather than by a central bureaucracy.

Are charters public schools?

Yes, charter schools are tuition-free, public schools that operate independently from the school district's central bureaucracy. Each charter school is governed by its own local school community, which often includes parents and teachers - rather than a district. This freedom allows teachers to be more innovative, and communities to shape their local school.

How can I apply for a charter school? Are there admission requirements?

Charter schools are open to ALL children and they are committed to serving a student body that reflects the local community. As public schools, charter schools must be open to all students that wish to attend. If applications for admission exceed the targeted enrollment for the school or grade, enrollment is determined by a "public random drawing" or lottery. However, charter schools may also design admissions processes tailored to assist them in carrying out their educational mission. Please see the enrollment section of our website for more information.

How does the lottery system work?

Charter schools are open to all students who want to attend, regardless of where they live. If the school receives more applications than spots available, it is required by law to hold a blind lottery to determine which students will have the opportunity to attend. Many charter schools have wait lists and may admit more students as spots become available.

If charter schools are independent from the district, how are they held accountable?

Charter schools are actually more accountable to parents and students than conventional schools. Because they are governed by the parents, teachers and administrators that make up the local school community, charters are directly accountable to the community they serve. Local governance allows the school community freedom to innovate and make decisions based on the needs of their students. Additionally, charter schools are reviewed for renewal every five years by the school district or authorizer to ensure they have good academic results, and that they are operating in a fiscally and operationally responsible manner.

Will I be required to volunteer?

While parental involvement is a critical key to student success, no student would ever be punished or lose their place at a school based on a parent's volunteer hours. Decisions about parental involvement often involve an agreement between parents, teachers, and administrators.

What programs do charter schools offer for students with special needs?

Charter schools believe every student deserves to be in an environment where they have the best chances of success and charter schools are committed to serving all students, including those with special needs. In fact, because charter schools have more flexibility than traditional public schools, they are uniquely situated to provide innovative, high quality educational services to students with special needs. In order to support students with special needs, charter schools will often tailor their educational program or create specialized programs. Depending on a student's individual needs, offering appropriate special education services may result in the charter school working with a District program, a non-public school or agency, or another charter school to provide a level or type of service that is not available at the individual charter school site. Ultimately, in charter schools and other public schools, the student's parents and representatives (the Individual Education Plan (IEP) team) make the final determination of the best option for that student.

Do charter school teachers have to have credentials?

In California, charter schools are required to hire credentialed teachers for core and college preparatory subjects just like all other public schools.

What is "project-based learning"?

Project-based learning is learning through real life experiences. The activities or projects may be the way in which students acquire skills or knowledge initially, or it may be how they learn to apply a variety of concepts that they already know. It is also about tying together separate skills in meaningful ways, across the curricular areas. Instruction can be tailored to the needs of the students and, because projects are open-ended, students have the opportunity to explore problems at a variety of depths or levels.

How will the family participation component work?

The school and families will work together to develop an individualized plan for each family describing: 1) how the family will support the student; 2) how the family will support the school; and 3) how the school will support the student and family. The plan will be flexible so that families can participate in a variety of traditional and non-traditional ways.

What type of enrichment activities are offered?

All students have regular enrichment activities, in areas such as extended science, languages, life skills, physical education, music, and other fine arts. These activities are important not only in developing well-rounded children, but also in strengthening their learning in the main content areas (reading, writing, math, social studies, science, etc.). Additionally, all students will have access to computers and other technology, to support them in their education.

How do students interact with their community?

Students interact with the public both in the community and in work settings. They do projects with business, government, and community organizations. Community and business people interact with students at the school, and partnerships develop with local businesses and agencies. Through community interaction, students feel a part of the larger community, see the relevance of their academic learning to everyday life, and understand their responsibilities as citizens.