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What's the big deal with charters? - Page 2

post #21 of 36
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

In my state, all kids in charters must take the state mandated tests, and these are quite specific. It's away beyond what reading and math levels kids have achieved, to extremely specific subject test for every subject. All schools required to take the test MUST teach to the test or they will bomb it. They can call themselves whatever they want, and they can do it as a distance program (if you are in a charter, you are not legally a home schooler but a public school student) but it's all boils down to the same content.

Philosophically, I have a problem with public monies being funneled into "for profit" charter schools. I think all charters should be not for profits and should be regulated as such.

But, honestly, if my best option for kid was a for profit charter, I would take it.

The annual standardized test is a requirement of CA charter schools as well for all students beginning in 2nd grade. In CA though the teachers are not required to teach the test. With the charter school we participated in (that served homeschoolers) we were free to use the resources we chose for our children, and there were many unschoolers in the program as well.

You make a good point though that in a brick and mortar charter school there is likely temptation to teach the upcoming standardized test to students so they will perform well- this is definitely a big criticism of the charters based on non-standardized Ed, such as Waldorf. However, the requirement that charter school students must take the annual standardized test beginning in 2nd grade in CA was imposed by the public school board of CA, not by the charter school movement itself (which pioneered in MN- where charters are granted by the university boards and not by the school districts, unlike CA).
post #22 of 36

Thanks for the insight, Miranda. You're lucky to have those options available to you. I'll have to investigate what's available to us here in Ontario.



post #23 of 36

Living in the state of Minnesota (a leader in charter schools and in school choice) makes it challenging as a parent to find the right school for your kid. Sometimes the choices feel overwhelming. We live in a good school district but we do not currently send our son to a district school. He currently attends a school that is part of an integration school district that has a year round school year. It is a public school (not a charter school) but it draws kids from 9 school districts and has an much more diverse student body than our neighborhood elementary school. We liked the diversity aspect and the year round school year has been ideal for our son and for our family.


For 6th-12th grade we are looking at a charter school that offers Project Based Learning. The kids are taught how to do long term projects that they design themselves using the state standards to guide them. They work closely with one or more advisors as they develop and complete the project. This style of learning has my son very excited. He learns much better when working in a cross-disciplinary way. He loves to read and research and he loves to think creatively and independently.


Charter schools are as different from each other as countries of the world are different from each other. The basic structure of a building, classes, students, and teachers may be similar. But the culture, focus, and philosophies can be completely different. Charter school are often catering to special interests/subjects or catering to students who have different learning styles or different educational needs.


How to know if the school you pick is a good one or not...hmm. I am always cautious of new charter schools because many of them do fail. But start by looking at the sponsoring organization. They will typically be sponsoring more than one charter school. So look at the track record of those schools to get a sense if they are successful. Research the school's philosophy and mission to see if matches your child's learning style, educational needs, etc. Then talk to parents and students who currently attend (or if the school is old enough, have graduated). Visit the school. Look at state test scores...but take them with a grain of salt.


I agree with the people who say every school has its trade offs. My son's current school doesn't offer gifted student support whereas our neighborhood school does. That wasn't an issue at the lower grades, but is now starting to be a problem for us. We are looking at a possible change or way wait it out another year until the charter school can take him in 6th.

post #24 of 36
Originally Posted by VocalMinority View Post

We have numerous charter schools here.  In theory, they're great!  They're a way to test out endless varieties of progressive educational ideas, without oppression from excessive government oversight or teachers' unions.  Parents don't have to pay for the privilege of letting their kids be guinea pigs, nor are they limited by which neighborhood they can afford to live in.  If a parent thinks a particular charter school's philosophy would work better for their child than their neighborhood public school, they can send their kid to the charter, for free!


The bulk of the charter schools in our city target inner-city and near-inner-city neighborhoods, where the public schools are notoriously poor.  Problem?  Even after having years to work out the kinks, I don't think ANY of the charter schools have succeeded in out-performing the city-run public schools.


Meanwhile, this is our first year with controversial "school vouchers".  In essence, our property taxes fund public schools (which creates the obvious problem that schools in wealthier neighborhoods have more money).  Now, low-income parents who have tried their local public school for at least one year may take a big chunk of their child's share of public school funding and apply it toward tuition at a private school, even religious schools.  This has been unpopular for many reasons (taking funding away from public schools - in many cases, the ones that need it most - and letting public funds go to religious institutions).  HOWEVER, this appears to be working well, for the kids using the vouchers.


I think the big differences are:


- The private schools still get to choose who may attend their school.  So there aren't problem kids from public schools being shuffled around, to hide the fact that maybe their public school wasn't the problem in the first place (as sometimes happens, in the charter schools).  It's low-income kids with the behavioral and academic abilities to thrive at better schools, being given the chance to attend them.


- In most cases, the vouchers don't cover all of tuition, so the parents are still sacrificing to send their kids to the private schools.  So the parents who are using the vouchers are the ones who really care about their kids' education and, in most cases, want to be involved at school.  Sometimes, with the charters, you have kids whose parents weren't paying attention to or supporting their education in the first place, putting them in a different school - again, as though the school was the only problem.  It isn't, always.


- Vouchers are sending kids to schools whose educational systems have already been established as successful and superior to many of the public schools.  They're not an experiment.





not understanding all the negativity from some in this thread surrounding a charter school. My middle child has attended charter school for going on 2 whole years. She attended a (paid for_ private school for preschool through Kindergarten and then did home scchool until she started 4th gr at the charter school. I put her there only because I did not like the public schools in our particular zone, no other reason. Yes, there are kids from various neighborhoods, who, like us, didn't want their children in the publics in their zones, but there are also WEALTHY children there from very good families (we aren't wealthy, closer to the poor end since I'm a single mom ;) just to back up what some of you are hinting towards ). I actually spend a LOT in gas weekly to take my child and pick her up because there are no buses (not many poor people can afford that right now). I also like  the fact they wear uniforms and it goes from K-8th grade. But after 2 years in charter my exhusband and I have decided to put her back in a private Christian school next year for reasons unrelated to the charter school. We've loved it! 

post #25 of 36
Originally Posted by mommy68 View Post

not understanding all the negativity from some in this thread surrounding a charter school. ..... I actually spend a LOT in gas weekly to take my child and pick her up because there are no buses 


I think that the argument typically is that quality public education is a right, even for poor children whose parents don't have a lot of resources and maybe don't put a lot of priority on school. Those poor kids are not likely to be able to take advantage of a charter situation in the way your child can: their parents may not have transportation, or may not be willing to devote that much of the family budget to gas to get them to school, or may not have the time or energy to ensure they get there, and may not take any role in seeking out a charter opportunity for their child. And those children are left in the neighborhood schools -- but now those neighborhood schools have been further impoverished by the absence of a lot of bright motivated students whose families value education, by the loss of funding that is going to charters, and by the loss of the committed parent-advocates of the charter kids who would otherwise have worked tirelessly to improve the quality of neighborhood schools. 


If you're an idealist about education, you believe that public education can and should provide a ticket out of aimlessness and poverty for our most vulnerable kids. Charters, the argument goes, tend to stratify educational opportunities along socio-economic class lines. Not as starkly as private schools, to be sure, but they're part of the public system and as such they have a moral obligation to serve the poor as fully as the middle class -- when in fact charters tend to produce the opposite.



post #26 of 36
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

If you're an idealist about education, you believe that public education can and should provide a ticket out of aimlessness and poverty for our most vulnerable kids. Charters, the argument goes, tend to stratify educational opportunities along socio-economic class lines. Not as starkly as private schools, to be sure, but they're part of the public system and as such they have a moral obligation to serve the poor as fully as the middle class -- when in fact charters tend to produce the opposite.


Yes, I think this can certainly be true. In our district I do agree that this point can be made for all schools, perhaps elementary more than the upper schools where kids can take the free bus to school and a large percentage of kids and families are encouraged to take part in the charter/"alternative" school choice process. I know this in part because my DC is in the process of making her public school choice and I believe all kids in our district are encouraged to participate. 


With elementary, it was more clear that the kids who went to charter schools did at the very least have a parent who knew about that option and pursued it for their kid a full 6 months ahead of when they were planning on attending (for most schools). Not all kids need to be able to drive to charters - many, many of my DC's class mates live in the neighborhood, lots right across the street but, yes, for parents who live far from their school of choice or the one they got their kid into, driving to school is certainly a privilege. 


But I do really like the direction our city is going in terms of public school choice for the upper schools. The general idea is that all schools are "good schools" but the particular focus of individual schools and location is better for some kids. It's really nice to have the freedom to pick a school for your kid within a public system. Only then there is the stress over whether she will get her first couple of choices or not. 

post #27 of 36

Keeping my child in a public school (current) or sending him to private school (applied but not accepted) or sending him to a charter school (plan to in 6th grade) is not going to make or break the success or failure of the public school system. Public schools are being strangled in my state by the politicians. They owe the schools millions and millions of dollars right now. My son's public school has had its funding slashed. As result, there is extremely poor staffing (his class is 60 kids in one room with 2 teachers). Gifted and other differentiation programs designed to challenge the top level students is nearly non-existent (as a result the school has suffered a major "brain-drain" of high performing kids). Until the political attitude towards schools and school funding changes we will continue to see more and more kids fall through the cracks across the board. So politically I vote for people who believe in our public schools, but personally I have to find the school that is the best fit for my kid.

post #28 of 36
Originally Posted by straighthaircurly View Post

Keeping my child in a public school (current) or sending him to private school (applied but not accepted) or sending him to a charter school (plan to in 6th grade) is not going to make or break the success or failure of the public school system. 

No, but when a large group of parents choose either to move (in the case of my city to the county), opt for private or charters, I do think it has an impact. But, like you, the obligation I feel towards a strong pubic school system is somewhat at odds with the obligation I feel as a parent. That said, our city has done a good job of making charters and other schools like it more accessible to everyone in the district. The other side of the coin for a lot of people in my district is that if the traditional neighborhood school were the only option the system would would see and even more severe drain than what you see with charter schools - you'd see folks leaving the system all together.  Being involved in the public school system even if it's as a charter school gives one a more personal stake than not and that's good for the district.  I'm sure this is on the radar for our administrators. 

post #29 of 36

I'm strongly considering signing my daughter up for a charter come September. It is one that works with home schoolers. We can pretty much unschool but we also get $1300/year for activities and materials. That sounds pretty nice.


I'm very happy to pay into taxes that support a public school system. I think it should exist. I donate money to the local public school when they have fundraisers (we live directly across the street from an elementary school so we hear about everything) but I don't want my kids in the public system.


I taught public high school for three years. I understand the arguments for public schools. Nevertheless I don't want my kids to be part of the current broken system. Is that unfair? Maybe. But I'm not going to put my kids in a not-so-great public school out of idealism. No thanks.

post #30 of 36
Originally Posted by straighthaircurly View Post

So politically I vote for people who believe in our public schools, but personally I have to find the school that is the best fit for my kid.


Agree. I think most people who find fault with the charter system lay the blame on the system, not the individual parents who choose the best fit at the current time for their particular child. I homeschooled exclusively for years: though I strongly supported the public system with my vote, my tax dollars, my energy, my voice, my volunteer time and so on, I was not willing to sacrifice my kids' well-being to my social idealism. 



post #31 of 36

I have a child in a charter and a child in public school. Our town's public schools are generally regarded as the best in the state, but DH, DD1 and I felt like the charter was a better fit for dd1. She has anxiety issues and prefers a less structured, more flexible environment. I loved the local public middle school when we toured it and I would have felt fine about dd1 going there, but the charter does offer some things that the local middle can't. It's right on a river and they go canoeing for P.E. and do environmental science in the river and it's much smaller. It's about 150 kids 6-12th. The local middle is about 600 kids 6-8. 


That said there is a new charter opening up in my town that I don't feel positive about. It's run by a for-profit company. (There are several big ones nationwide.) And I can't figure out what it brings to the table that our local schools don't already offer except maybe a smaller total enrollment. They tout it as having a more academic focus, but our schools are already the highest performing schools in the state. I actually predict it will fail, but we will see. I think for a charter school to succeed and not be a detriment to a strong public school system it has to offer something that traditional public schools can't.

post #32 of 36
Beanma, I still can't see the draw for that new charter school. In addition to what you said, the location is also not great. I can't see a lot of families in that neighborhood choosing that charter over the local public school. And the new elementary school that is opening in the fall will enroll many of the children the new charter hopes to draw.

I'm putting my kids back in the lottery for the project-based charter they didn't get into this year. I also heard about another new charter in the northern part of our county. It's also going to be year-round and will have a STEM focus. I am interested in learning more about their plans.
post #33 of 36

yeah, what you said! If a charter brings something to the table, like a project-based focus (although dd2's traditional public school has switched over to project focused learning this year), or STEM focus then I can see the draw. So far our experience with the environmental & art focused middle+high school charter that dd1 goes to has been pretty positive. One thing I really like about their approach is they do integrated themed units that are across all subject areas, so it ties together all classes and the whole school. 

post #34 of 36

We are not at a charter yet, we have a slot at one starting in 2014. I am so excited honestly. There have been valid points made and I guess I fall into the category of I'm tired of the public school system failing MY child. 




DD1 has significant learning disabilities. It has been a struggle her entire schooling. We originally started home schooled, then battled our routed public elem school, then fled to a private school where her many accommodations were never an issue. Bullying lead us back to a different public school. Every day is a nightmare. Accommodations are not existent, she learns literally nothing in school. We pay privately for tutors after school to keep her at grade level. Over crowed classrooms plus the 3 different part time teachers that work in her classroom (there is not a single full time teacher) just compound an already difficult situation. We volunteered hundreds of hours to get her a guaranteed slot in a project based charter school. That was not easy for us and came at a tremendous cost to our family but I am well aware that even the ability to have done that is not something every family can do. Because of the many hours our family was at the charter school, we saw so much, meet so many people, and now I can not wait for it to be our turn. All my four children are now guaranteed slots there. It might not be the school for all of them but at least we have options now. 

post #35 of 36

I don't know how it works where you are, but here is what I have noticed here in my area of FL. There were a lot of questions raised about a local charter school because the teachers have a "lavish" retreat each summer before school starts for teachers and their families. I don't see what the big deal is. I don't think they use taxpayer money for it, since it is a charter school. They probably use private donations. Honestly, by accident, we were at the same hotel the same weekend, and it's no Ritz Carlton. They just want to treat their teachers right. It makes teachers feel appreciated. 


What does bother me is that it seems the charter schools have more leeway to "kick kids out" if they don't score well. There have been a few local articles about it lately.


Also, I noticed when my son got accepted to one, they weren't very helpful with information about his IEP or for what services they had available for kids who needed it. Granted, it was a brand new school, so perhaps they have gotten better about working with kids with IEPs, but I still hear parents griping about it.


They also follow their own rules when it comes to the lottery system and taking new students. My son actually moved UP on the wait list at a local charter instead of down closer to number one. Doesn't seem legal to me, but they get away with it.


So, to me, it seems unfair that they should fall under umbrella of public school and get benefits of being public, when they seem to be able to make their own rules. Sounds more like a private school to me. I guess if I wasn't on the outside, looking in, I would feel differently!


My son actually got into a magnet and a charter the same year. I visited both and chose the magnet.

post #36 of 36
Originally Posted by kentuckymom View Post

So, this is a purely hypothetical question. I currently live in Kentucky, where there are no charter schools and there probably never will be. There has been a bill before the state house at least a dozen times over the years and it has always been struck down.


However, DH and I have talked off and on for years about moving back to either Michigan (where I grew up) or Wisconsin (where he grew up). Given the (at least) annual layoffs going on at the company DH works for, odds are we're going to move sooner or later. I think the question is just whether or not we'll get to choose the timing.


All the areas we'd consider living in are home to at least a handful of charters, so I'm curious about them. I think I understand how charters work, but I'm curious to know why people choose them (or don't choose them) over traditional public schools.


If your child is at a charter, why did you choose it? 

DS attends a charter school. We were drawn to its teaching model. We visited a number of schools in the district (zoning isn't enforced strongly around here) and we were impressed with the seemingly cohesive nature of the school. Thematic and collaborative teaching were its strengths, we felt.


Is there any one thing that you think sets charters apart, or are they so varied that it just depends on the school?

I think for the most part, the percentage of parent involvement is greater in charters than in other schools. The school that my son goes to has the highest number of volunteer hours in the district. Of course, this could be just a handful of parents logging in a lot of hours but still, it greatly reduces the student:adult ratio which I think helps a lot in terms of quality of learning. Don't get me wrong, our teachers still work long hours- as much as the other non-charter public schools, or maybe even more since they have to fulfill a lot of roles in the charter, but somehow the presence of volunteers every single day in the building just makes for a smoother school day, I suppose.


How can you tell if a charter is a good school, particularly if it's fairly new?

The charter that DS goes to is fairly new as opposed to the other charters in the area. We went mostly by visiting the school numerous times and I think the biggie for us was that the teachers in the school district had a high regard for the staff in the school. I have the advantage of having a lot of educator friends but if I didn't, I would probably visit the school and ask a lot of questions. 


Particularly if you live in a well regarded district but send your child to a charter school, why did you decide that was the better choice?

Just based solely on DS' needs and where we think he will flourish. On top of 4 other public schools, we have 2 other charters in the area. One was a Montessori that actually had a spot for DS after the lottery (we were waitlisted for a bit in DS' school) and the other had a more traditional, high academic approach. DS has a very strong interest in the arts and is very, very bright. I looked at the art programs in the other schools as well as their academic program and how it would fit DS' learning style. Also, the discipline approach was somewhat important to me.


Do you feel kids miss out on anything at a charter that they would get at a traditional public school?

Not at all. It is important to note that DS' school IS a public school. They just have a bit more freedom in terms of curriculum approach, administration hires. The school offers free and reduced lunch as well as bussing to what their normal area would be. We live outside the city where the school is so bussing isn't available to us. The school also has special education teachers as well as aides so the school is able to serve those with special needs.


Feel free to share any other thoughts regarding charters.


Remember, this is a purely hypothetical question. If we end up staying in Kentucky, I will likely never have the opportunity to consider a charter school. If we move, I might. I'm just curious about them.

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