What is a Charter School?

 

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Charter schools are public schools operated by a not-for-profit, independent governing board under a performance contract, or “charter” with the sponsoring school district which holds them accountable for academic, operational, and financial performance. The charter contract details the school’s mission, academic program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. 

Operating independently, charter schools have more flexibility than traditional public schools and the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for improving student achievement. Charter schools are tuition-free and open to all students. 

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The first charter school opened in Florida in 1996. Since then, charter schools have grown to meet parental demand for a high-quality education choice program. Just like students attending a district-run public school, charter school students must take standardized state exams (like the FSA) and meet federal academic standards.

The Florida Legislature, in authorizing the creation of public charter schools, established the following guiding principles: high standards of student achievement while increasing parental choice; the alignment of responsibility with accountability; and ensuring parents receive information on reading levels and learning gains of their children. Charter schools are intended to improve student learning, increase learning opportunities, and measure learning outcomes.

Every year, the Florida Department of Education releases a report entitled Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools: A Comparison of the Performance of Charter School Students with Traditional Public School Students. The report released in March 2019 shows that charter school students are outperforming peers attending district-run schools in a majority of the comparisons.

Charter schools foster a partnership between parents, teachers, and students to create an environment in which parents can be more involved, teachers are given the freedom to be innovative in their classrooms to help improve learning, and students are provided the structure they need to learn.