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.
"All you fascists are bound to lose" — Woody Guthrie
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.
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.
"All you fascists are bound to lose" — Woody Guthrie
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.
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.
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.