Education 101: What is a Public Charter School?

Public charter schools are rapidly growing in popularity. However, most parents still don’t quite understand what a public charter school is and what makes them different from other types of schools. 

We’re here to set the record straight. In this article, we clear up the confusion around public charters and nail down exactly what a public charter school is.

What Is a Public Charter School?

A public charter school is a school that’s publicly funded, free to attend, and run by independent contracts. Often, people will confuse public charter schools with private schools, but they are quite different in terms of funding, accessibility, and structure.

Whereas public charters are free for students to attend, private schools are tuition-based and aren’t regulated by the government. Private schools also tend to have looser regulatory standards, whereas public charters need to uphold an agreed-upon charter that’s set up by a board.

Public charter schools are also different from traditional public schools. Contrary to some myths, the biggest difference between the two isn’t that they’re regulated; it’s how they’re regulated.

Traditional public schools follow a strict set of guidelines that are set by the school district. Public charter schools still need to follow federal laws and regulations, but they’re not tied to a district school board. Instead, they follow guidelines that are set up by a separate, independent board. 

Here’s a quick guide to what you can expect from online school. >>

What’s the State of Public Charter Schools in the U.S.?

Public charter popularity has been steadily climbing higher throughout the last decade. In fact, from 2000 to 2017, public charter school enrollment jumped by more than seven times. Recent estimates put total public charter enrollment at more than 3.2 million students. As these institutions gain more and more attention, parents and students are quickly waking up to the perks of public charter schools.

Why Are Parents Choosing Public Charters?

There are reasons parents are deciding to choose public charter schools for their students’ education. Here are some factors driving the decision to pick charter schools over traditional public schools and private schools.

Why Parents Are Picking Public Charters Over Traditional Public School

More flexibility: Because public charters aren’t tied to a district, they generally have more room to be flexible. Decisions don’t have to churn through the slow cogs of district school boards, so it’s easier for public charters to make structural progress. That means many public charters are able to use advanced learning methods and newer forms of instruction.

More personalization: Sadly, many traditional public schools across the nation are overcrowded. In many cases, public charters are using flexibility to create smaller classes and more personalized learning. In advanced online public charters, this learning is taking the form of self-paced learning guides and one-on-one support.

More attention: Not all public charters are able to give students the attention they need. However, many online charters are using online learning to lift the burden off of instructors and free up time for targeted direct learning.

Why Parents Are Choosing Public Charters Over Private Schools

Free tuition: As we mentioned earlier, one main difference between public charter schools and private schools is tuition. Of course, it’s a big financial advantage to receive free education for your child. At the same time, because public charters don’t exclude low-income families, the student body can enjoy a more diverse learning environment.

Clearer teaching standards and structure: Private schools are known for having loose or varied standards. In contrast, public charter schools operate according to clear charters, and the schools are expected to uphold regulatory standards. That means it’s easier for parents to know what to expect during the day.

More diverse instructors and students: Public charter schools often feature a more diverse set of instructors and students than other types of schools. In fact, recent National Center for Education Statistics reports found the following:

  • Twenty-three percent of public charter schools had more than 50 percent enrollment of black students, compared to 7 percent of private schools. 
  • Twenty-seven percent of public charter schools featured higher than 50 percent enrollment of Hispanic students, compared to 6 percent of private schools. 

This diversity exposes students to a wider range of perspectives and a more complete learning experience.

How to Pick the Right Public Charter School

Even though the popularity of public charters is jumping nationwide, it doesn’t mean every public charter will offer the same quality of education. If you want to suss out the the best education for your child, there are a few things to look for:

Accreditation

If you want to be able to trust the quality of education a public charter school is providing, make sure it’s accredited by a reputable education body. It should also offer coursework that’s aligned with strict higher learning entities, such as the NCAA and University of California.

Learning Platform Quality

An online public charter’s ability to reach students will depend heavily on its online learning platform. The best schools will offer self-paced learning, intuitive student dashboards, and other resources that make it easier for students to learn.

Class Size

It’s simple: Students need direct attention to learn effectively. That’s why the school you choose should focus on small class sizes and targeted direction.

Distance Learning Expertise

If you want your student to grow as a distance learner, it’s important that the school’s leaders have experience delivering online instruction. Otherwise, your student could be stuck wasting time as leaders struggle to figure out how to use technology.

Socialization Programs

Social skills are critical to any student’s development and future. Before choosing a public charter school, make sure it has programs in place that are designed specifically to provide social development.

Get Answers to All Your Questions About Pubic Charter Learning

At Method Schools, we want parents to find the best learning resources for their child. Have questions about learning at a public charter school? We’re here to help. Contact one of our learning experts today.

Method is here to help your child succeed. Learn more >>

Mark Holley
Mark Holley
Mark is the co-founder of Method Schools and SmartFox and has been working in the marketing and finance areas of K-12 education for two decades. He holds a B.S. in Business from Utah Valley University and an MBA from Brigham Young University. In his spare time he’s usually on his mountain bike.
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