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Charter Schools Information

A charter school is a tuition free, nonsectarian public school of choice that operates independently, with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools.  The "charter" establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success.  A charter school is usually able to hire its own staff but can be closed for failure to meet its promises regarding student performance or for financial mismanagement.  Charter schools generally offer teachers, families, and students more authority to make decisions than most traditional public schools.  Instead of being accountable for compliance with rules and regulations, they are accountable for academic results and for upholding their charter.  

Who authorizes charter schools?
This varies from state to state, depending on the state's charter law.  In California there are three types of authorizers: the governing board of the school districts, county boards of education, or the state board.  Generally there are four types of entities allowed to authorize charter schools: the local school board, state universities, community colleges, and the state board of education. 

Are students in charter schools being well educated?
Research shows charter schools do a better job increasing student achievement than traditional public schools.  Charter schools are typically approved for periods from 3-5 years.  At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school's contract.  Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor, usually a state or local school board, to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract.  The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability.  They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them, and the public that funds them. 

Charter schools are held accountable for the performance of their students on statewide standard tests and are ranked according to the Academic Performance Index (API).  Charter school students must also make adequate yearly progress (AYP), based on test scores, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).