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Knowledge Base

Flexibility For Accountability: Why Charter Schools Succeed



What is a charter school?

A charter school is an independently run public school granted greater flexibility in its operations, in return for greater accountability for performance. The "charter" establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the school’s program, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessment.

Are charter schools all the same?

No. Charter schools can vary a great deal in their design and results.

What’s the difference between a charter school, public school, and private school?

Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that families choose them for their children. They operate with freedom from some of the regulations that are imposed upon district schools. Charter schools are accountable for academic results and for upholding the promises made in their charters. They must demonstrate performance in the areas of academic achievement, financial management, and organizational stability. If a charter school does not meet performance goals, it may be closed.

Private schools, on the other hand, are self-funded and primarily rely on tuition, grants, donations, and endowments. They are completely autonomous and can offer curriculum not regulated by state standards.

How are charter schools funded?

Charter schools are public schools. Like district public schools, they are funded according to enrollment (also called average daily attendance, or ADA), and receive funding from the district and the state according to the number of students attending.

Can charter schools deny low-performing students?

No, charter schools are public schools and thus must accept any students who are eligible to attend. Just like public schools, they are not allowed to prevent students from attending their school. If the charter school is oversubscribed however, meaning more students apply for positions in the charter school than are eligible, the charter school will hold a random lottery for admittance. It may not pick and choose students who based on arbitrary criteria like test scores, family income, or English proficiency.