Simply put, the existence of charter schools allows families to have more high-quality options for educating their children and increases their ability to choose the best education option for each individual child. Each charter school has its own governing structure, which allows greater flexibility in developing effective approaches, policies, and practices that address academic and opportunity gaps that are prevalent in the public education system.
On the other hand, charter schools also have some room for improvement in ways that are uniquely theirs. Greater public transparency and public accountability were the two most cited by our panel of experts. As the charter school movement grows, it will be even more important to make sure that families and students know their rights, that expectations are agreed upon and met, and that all schools create a healthy environment and culture that is conducive to learning.
There is also an opportunity to diversify models for charter schools – to include more schools that are focused on careers and trades in addition to the current emphasis on college preps. Even with those caveats, panelists agreed that charter schools enhance our local education landscape and help raise the bar of excellence in a way that is accessible to families of all income levels.
In closing, here are key takeaways from the charter school discussion:
- There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to public education.
- Charter schools are public, nonprofit schools that are held to the same standards, performance measures, laws, and qualifications as traditional public schools
- Charter schools increase access to high-quality education options for all families and students.
- Charter schools, like traditional schools, work best when they are led by people who know and understand the unique resources, concerns, and challenges of the communities that they serve.
- Leadership and instructors from both types of schools have much to learn from and teach each other, and opportunities for mutual knowledge-sharing, relationship-building, and collaboration benefit everyone.
- Regardless of the type of school, a high-quality education should be defined not only by academic performance, but by factors such as social and emotional support for students, governing structure, finances, teacher retention, and other nuanced elements determined by our community.
- Nonprofits, businesses, and individuals can get involved with charter schools by helping individual schools meet specific needs that they have identified at their schools.
- No matter what type of school they attend, all students deserve a great education, and continued collaboration between Shelby County Schools, the Achievement School District, and other charter schools and districts will help to make that community vision a reality.