Charter schools vary widely from school to school. Parents often come to a charter school because they are unsatisfied with the public school system and are looking for something different. Charter schools are not always a better fit however. Parents need to be sure to find a charter school that will meet the needs of their student.
Brent Bishop, principal and founder of Highland Academy Charter School in Southern California, has some tips on how to decide if a charter school is the right fit for your child.
1. Just because it’s a charter school doesn’t mean it’s a good fit.
In a recent interview, Mr. Bishop said, “There are many different charter schools, focused on different things. If you are considering a charter school, you have to look at the focus of the school and make sure it’s a good fit.” Some charters have the focus of helping struggling students. Others are very career or trade oriented. The objective of a charter school has to be in line with your educational goals for your child.
2. Find out about the school staff. Mr. Bishop recommends getting as much information as you can through a school tour if possible. Because of the hands on nature of charter schools, staff and administration are often able to persnaolly answer questions and help parents and students get a good feel for what the school has to offer.
Parents can also talk to other students and their parents to see what experiences they have had at the school. Ask specific questions that are tailored to what you are looking for in a school.
Some helpful questions for parents and staff:
What programs are available?
How does the school help students who are struggling?
How does the school do at keeping the parents involved?
What is the homework load like?
What is the class size?
What is the focus of the charter?
How is this different than what my child would have at the public school?
What is the school policy on discipline? Absences? Testing?
3. Look at how learning is approached at that school. Each charter school has to follow the standards for education as outlined by the state, but they have a lot more freedom in how they teach their students. Charter schools are somewhere between a public school and a private school because they are publicly funded, but they have a lot less red tape and regulations than a traditional public school.