May 16, 2011,
M.T. asks from Los Angeles, CA on May 13, 2011
Re: Regular Public School Vs. Charter Schools
My daughter will be attending Kindergarten this year and I’m not sure what school I’d like her to attend. We live in El Sereno, CA, her home school is Huntington Elementary which has a low score of 3 so I’m trying to avoid sending her there. There is another elementary that’s not too far from us by the name of Multnomah which has a higher grading score of 6, it’s also a gifted school and I’m trying to get her in there. This year they have “Open Enrollment” so it’ll have to depend on our luck if she’s picked from the pool/lottery. I recently found out of a Charter school nearby by the name of Futuro College Preparatory Elementary School and I’ve signed her up here as well though I don’t know much about “Charter Schools”. The children at the charter school did seem very disciplined/ well mannered and their hours are longer from 7:30 – 3:45 (or 4:45 if homework help is needed) Vs. Multnomah’s hours of 8:10 – 2:30.
My questions to all of you are… what are the differences between a regular public school (low ratings around my area) Vs. charter schools? What are the pros and cons to each?
Thank you, M.
K.B. answers from Tulsa on May 13, 2011
Charter schools are free to write their own curriculum and if free from state rules. They pay less and sometimes use noncertified teachers(make sure your teacher is certified in the area she is teaching).
The most important element is the teacher. A caring, dedicated teacher will work to give an excellent education and bring out the best in all kids regardless of the situation she is in.
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K.M. answers from Chicago on May 13, 2011
Watch the documentary "Waiting for Superman" for a strong explanation.
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L.P. answers from Pittsfield on May 13, 2011
Like regular public schools, there are good charter schools and not so good ones. The same goes for Catholic/ Christian private schools. You really have to do some investigating.
The schools in our area don't have very high scores either (elementary is a 3 also. I think high school might have gotten a 5). Our children go to the Catholic School in our town, which we have been very happy with.
Our oldest son will be starting at the local charter school this coming fall (for grades 6-12). I spent A LOT of time on their website, and was very impressed with everything I read.
We went for a tour of the school, and were a little afraid it might not live up to the image I had of it from the website. I was honestly even more impressed. My son was also. He then went for a "Shadow Day". He was matched up with a 6th grader, and basically followed him around to all his classes. When I came to pick him up, he was BEAMING.
It is a perfect fit for him because they use art and technology to teach everything. He's much better hands on, and when he can be creative. There was a giant cactus in the main office that a student made- the calculus cactus- each arm representing different aspects of calculus. It was really impressive.
The school's website also includes information on the backgrounds/ degrees of all the teachers. They have very good teachers with degrees from schools like Fordham University, Brown University, Berkely, Boston University. The Dean of Students received his Master's in Education at Harvard Graduate School so they're not cutting corners by using underqualified teachers. They do have Math tutors, reading coaches, an adjustment counselor, special education teachers too- not cutting corners there either.
These are some of the things that impressed me most:
I really haven't found any cons yet w/ this charter school, but encourage you to check out the website for the charter school you are considering for your child. They likely have a lot of the same kinds of information. Also ask around. We met a student who was fund-raising, and asked him how he liked the school. He said he loved it. Go for tours, school plays, open house nights, science fairs, etc. to help you get a feel for it.
Very best wishes!!!! :)
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J.B. answers from Atlanta on May 13, 2011
It really depends on your state as to the rules for charter schools. Here in Atlanta, the charter schools still must fulfill the mandated core curriculum and the kids have to take the CRCT, but they do get to write their own curriculum approaches and make slight changes to the school calendar if they wish. Charter schools are STILL public schools within their school system. Their charter has a certain focus that they center all of their curriculum around. It could be the environment, an International Baccalaureate program, technology, etc.They can have different rules and regulations as part of their charter (certain amounts of parent volunteer hours, uniforms, specific student project or volunteer requirements, etc.). Most charter schools run better than regular ed schools in communities where the regular ed schools are having issues, because they DO require parental involvement and a certain level of behavior. My oldest will start a charter school in August that is an International Baccalaureate school focusing on Chinese. ALL students starting in kindergarten take Mandarin Chinese every day. The first and second grades are quite impressive! The instructors are all Chinese nationals who are over here teaching. They have a global culture focus and many of their special programs relate to the Chinese part of their charter.
Just keep in mind when investigating ANY school -even charters -that it does depend on the staff, the parents and the administration as to whether or not it truly is a good school. There's another charter school near us that many like, but we do not. It's like happy-go-lucky playland where some years, with the right teacher, the kids learn a lot and excel and then the next year or two nothing is accomplished. Their test scores are low and a friend of mine who used to teach there said her kids came to her woefully unprepared -so not all charter schools are great!
V.M. answers from Erie on May 13, 2011
I think you have an excellent answer from Kay B.
I would add that you have every right to "interview" the charter school and ask as many questions as needed, same for your traditional schools.
One question that i would want to ask, is what help/programs exist for students with special needs be it learning difficulties, behavior issues, or giftedness? ANd i would want to be convinced that they would really be effective. Even if your child doesn't need the help, other classmates might and it would be terrible if the teacher had to spend all her time dealing with their issues instead of teaching your child. it has been my experience that that is one way charter schools cut corners.
Ask about class sizes and student to teacher ratio, and be sure that they clarify if that a 1 to 15 ratio really means 1 teacher in the room with only 15 kids all day or if that means 1 teacher in the room with 30 kids for the mornign and 15 in the afternoon or something like that. I've heard of charter schools saying 2 teachers per 20 kids but what that meant was taht for one hour a day and aid was in the room and the rest of the time the teacher was on her own, which wouldn't be a problem other than it is misleading.
Oh and i would want to know how much parental involvement there was at the charter school, are there parent conference, how often, what special activites are there like fun fairs, is there a PTO. Do they like parents volunteering in the classroom or are parents a nusiance.
D.D. answers from Los Angeles on May 14, 2011
hey we're neighbors..we're over in Montecito Heights..you better make sure that the public school u guys are assigned to will release your child..most LSAUD will not release to another public school but will release to a charter..or magnet..we got in to a charter that is 25 minutes from our home..that's how far i'm willing to drive to keep my son out of the school that we're assigned to..they didn't even make test scores this year that's how out of it they are. i'll let the other moms chime in and tell you about the differences but i wouldn't count on being able to just switch to another public..that was my plan til i found out the school doesn't release..and i also preferred a charter
K.W. answers from Los Angeles on May 16, 2011
Really, really depends. For example, some charter schools get funding directly from the state, other are still associated with the school district. I work for one that still has a home school are (like a regular school) but also accepts lotteries, where as others might only have lotteries. SOme have a special focus area, some receive additional grant money. Some have teachers that are regular union employees (good because same credentials and low turn-over, bad because the school can't really get rid of bad ones), and some don't. Really, both regular public schools and charter schools vary greatly and need to be evaluated case-by-case. But what makes a charter school different is the charter. Generally it gives parents more voice and often has some sort of vision. So you might ask to see a copy or ask some one involved to summarize how decisions are made and what the general philosophy is/ how they envision the school to be different from others.
So I guess that's not helpful!