Periodically I get emails from people asking my opinion on different things. Do you think this has to do with me being wise, or me being entertaining? Anyway, yesterday I received the following:
From a parents point of view, what are the differences between Charter schools and public schools? – Rene’e
This is a common question that is widely asked by parents researching which school may be the best option for their children. Especially as Charter schools have been popping up in our communities more and more frequently. The reality is that Charter schools have actually been around for 21 years. They started more as a movement by people who wanted to offer a substitution for the poorly run public schools. Their practices are viewed as experimental and a more innovative way of educating children. Because they are not predominately funded by the the government, they have a greater flexibility in how they operate, but in turn because they hold to a performance contract they’re accountable to show a higher academic result.
Here are a few bullet points that I think are important when researching both options:
- Charter schools typically have longer school days and a longer school year in a whole, while public schools typically have shorter days and a shorter school year in a whole.
- Charter schools generally have smaller class sizes which gives the children more one on one time with the teacher. This is made possible because Charter schools can set the number of students they will accept at the school. The smaller class sizes are needed because the teacher is responsible for the children’s academic growth. Public schools, on the other hand, have larger class sizes; it’s not uncommon for a class size to reach 30 or more children in a classroom in highly populated districts. This in turn reduces the one on one attention the children receive.
- Charter Schools typically hire non-union teachers though in some states they require them to do so. This gives them the freedom to terminate a teacher that repeatedly has a low academic achievement level in their classroom. Some believe this as unfair. It is viewed as possibly being the child’s learning ability but again the school has a higher academic standard to adhere to and the teacher is expected to ‘get the job done’. Public schools employ union teachers which are typically paid a higher wage then their charter school counter parts. Public school teachers are not held to a higher academic standard and are harder to terminate due to the union bureaucracy.
- Charter schools have lesson plans that are driven by current data. They test their students typically four times a year, one of these tests being the state standardized test. This helps them adjust their class lessons if there are topics showing the need for more reinforcement. Public schools test the children once a year using only the state standardized test. Most parents are unaware that typically state required standardized test results are not reported to the schools until the following year. Sadly, at that point the children have already moved on and there can be no reinforcement of topics that may have been needed.
- Charter schools have a smaller group of officials making the decisions for the school. This is how they can implement changes more effectively and immediately. Public schools have a big bureaucracy which makes it harder to get things implemented.
I could go on, as there are other differences, but I believe this covers some of the more important points. As a parent who chose to enroll their child in a Charter school I see the benefits first hand. All schools will have their own individual issues/problems. Nothing will be perfect. Still, for me the smaller class size, teacher accountability, and the ability to see my child’s real time progress was a big draw to the Charter school community. Another large draw to the Charter school community was their parent customer service line, which I have had to use. They are there for the parent. They will be by your side until you are satisfied with the results for any issue or concern you bring to their attention. Public schools don’t offer this type of service, at least that I have found.
Choosing the type of school you send your child to is a difficult and at times stressful decision. Good luck.
– C. King
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