Picking the right school for your child feels like an endless struggle. Sometimes your first choice isn’t the right fit or maybe you don’t know where to start. If you’ve lost faith in the traditional public school system and find private school is too expensive, you will find yourself searching for the middle ground. You’ll find that the perfect alternative is enrolling in a charter school.
The Nitty-Gritty Basics
So, what is a charter school exactly? According to the Colorado Department of Education, charter schools are “public schools that operate via a contract with an authorizer such as the local school district or, in some cases, the Colorado Charter School Institute.”
In Colorado, charter schools boast higher graduation rates than their district-run counterparts and have given previously underserved students an impressive leg-up when it comes to proper education. The entire point of their existence is to bridge the gap between well-off students with more education choices and offer brick-and-mortar schools that cater to unique needs, serve disadvantaged children, and offer dynamic learning styles. With over 200 schools to choose from, there’s a lot to consider.
A Built-In Fail Safe
Since charter schools are held to a higher standard for education, they are also held entirely accountable for the school’s success. This success is deemed by whether or not the school meets the criteria and provisions written in the charter (contract).
If things go horribly awry within the school’s administration, chances are nothing will be swept under the rug “for posterity’s sake” since their contract authorizer has the ability to shut down the school if it fails to meet expectations academically or follow the financial and organizational standards set by the state charter system. These check-ins by authorizers typically happen toward the end of the contract, which usually spans about five years.
Since charter schools are authorized and funded by the state, tuition is free. The amount of state funding provided to each school is based on Per Pupil Operating Revenue (PPR). This is essentially a financial formula that calculates the total amount of funding needed based on the number of students enrolled. This funding supports students’ learning needs, and due to these schools’ unique freedoms education-wise, plenty of exciting programs can be offered.
Education and Enrichment Opportunities
Teaching methods, topics, and more are generally innovative and flexible in charter schools. Since these schools aren’t bound to the public education criteria, they are better able to easily allocate and approve resources that support students and fulfill their learning needs.
There are six types of unique charter schools: STEAM/STEM, Environmental Science, Language Immersion, Project-Based, Place-Based, and Montessori.
STEAM/STEM charter schools have a unique emphasis on core subjects like sciences, technology, English, art, and math. For students seeking an education that focuses on these subjects and provides exciting insight into what careers they can pursue in these fields, it’s a great fit.
Environmental Science charter schools are steeped in nature. Attending students will be able to view the world around them through scientific and empathetic lenses, seeing how the natural world and environments work together and how we can be better stewards of Earth. With lots of opportunities to be outside, students can get hands-on experience in nature.
Language Immersion charter schools offer an entire curriculum taught in two (and sometimes three) languages. Since kids’ minds are like sponges, they can easily pick up a second or third language beginning in kindergarten. The languages taught vary by school, but oftentimes, French, Spanish, and Mandarin are offered.
Project-Based charter schools have curious students explore the world and its dynamics through design thinking, a learning method that focuses primarily on asking questions and requiring research and hands-on activities to answer those questions. Oftentimes, this means students can come up with their own theories about subjects that interest them and study them using traditional methods like the scientific method and more.
Place-Based charter schools move beyond the traditional school house. Instead, learning is hosted in institutional places of learning like museums. Students will enjoy learning about local culture, heritage, history, the environment, and more while also getting ample access to courses that feed traditional subjects like English, math, and science.
Montessori charter schools are brick-and-mortar schools that teach in the Montessori method, putting stock into the idea of independent learning and exploration. Students will be able to be under the instruction of a teacher who lets them learn about the subjects and skills they are most interested in.
The Overall Positives
Most parents who choose to send their children to private schools are wooed by the idea of academic growth, college readiness, and career preparedness. Since many charter schools are able to allocate funding towards hiring the most accredited staff and the creation of programs that mesh with students’ goals, both parents and students are pleased with what charter schools can accomplish.
Charter schools often have a certain school culture or environment that entices and encourages students to foster skills and pursue their interests all the while enjoying the company of like-minded peers. Mixing together the idea of exploration, collaboration, and support forms a spirit of togetherness. How is this possible? Smaller classroom sizes. Thanks to selective enrollment, charter schools have a lower student-to-faculty ratio. This means that teachers will have more time and opportunities to connect with students and learn about each student’s unique background, interests, and approach to learning. This type of bond is what catapults most young learners toward a brighter future.
All-in-all, charter schools are a great option for parents wanting to give their children specialized education without paying hefty tuition fees. To get started in your research, come up with a list of criteria, talk to your child about their interests, and explore your options from there.