What to Look for in Your Child’s Charter School
Why Parents Are Choosing Charter Schools
As modern changes causes the educational landscape to shift, more and more parents are opting for control over their child’s schooling and choosing charter schools. Over the past twenty years, charter schools have been steadily growing in popularity among parents concerned about their children’s academic achievement.
Charter schools are not private schools; they are non-religious public schools operating under an approved charter, or contract, for curriculum and administration. Unlike public schools, which are governed by a local school board and use a curriculum determined by the state, charter schools have control over their curriculum, budgets, and staffing.
According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, there has been a six fold increase in the number of students who attend charter schools over the last 15 years. In fact, 3.1 million American students were enrolled in charter schools during the 2016-2017 school year, a significant increase from the 2.7 million enrolled during the 2014-2015 school year. In addition, 78% of parents who have a charter school in their community support them a an educational option.
There are many reasons why parents choose a charter school: greater educational freedom, better quality of instruction, and better cultural fit than traditional public schools. Of course, not all charter schools work for all students; it’s up to the parents to decide if a school is a good match. If you are considering sending your child to a charter school, there are certain factors you should look for when researching institutions in your area.
A strong sense of school pride and belonging is vital for educational achievement. If a student does not like attending school or feels that they don’t belong, they won’t perform as well as students who do fit into the school’s culture.
To accurately assess if a charter school is the right cultural fit, consider your child’s interests and needs. Do they require special education services? Are they interested in a certain subject area or extracurricular activity, such as theater, music, engineering, or computer science? Does your child work best in a small classroom setting?
Sit down with your child and draw up a list of “wants” and “needs” for the charter school. When visiting a school, assess it against this list to determine if it’s a good match. Check to see if extracurricular activities, support programs, and other resources are available.
Quality of Instruction
Your child deserves top-quality instruction without having to pay thousands in private school tuition. However, not all schools offer first-rate instruction. The best way to assess if a charter school is providing a truly excellent education is to visit the school and talk to current parents.
When you visit a school, ask if you can sit in on a few classes to get a sense of what day-to-day instruction is like. Assess the teacher’s ability to engage students in hands-on, active learning experiences. Many charter schools have small class sizes, so the teacher should be able to adapt their style to fit each student’s needs.
If you can, meet with parents who have children enrolled in the school and ask them about the teaching quality. Make sure to research the schools as well – read online reviews, news articles, and rankings from trusted educational publications to get a sense of the school’s quality of instruction.
Another factor to look for when touring a charter school is how they deliver their unique curriculum. Since charter schools have the freedom to design and implement what students learn, they should incorporate a variety of learning strategies. Teachers should combine hands-on activities, small group work, lectures, and individual assessments to create an optimal learning experience.
In addition, you want to make sure that the charter school’s curriculum is on par with state objectives. The last thing you want is for your child to graduate and attend college without having vital skills that their public-school peers know, such as how to write a solid research paper. If you can, ask for a copy of the school’s charter or curriculum guidelines and compare them to your state’s learning objectives.
You want your child to receive an excellent, intellectually stimulating education. If it’s too difficult, your child will fall behind. If it’s not challenging enough, your child will feel bored. A charter school should have programs and curriculum geared toward all learners, not just gifted students or students in need of improvement. If your child tends to be in the advanced classes at school, make sure the charter school offers higher level instruction. If your child needs extra help, look to see what support services and courses are available.
The charter school should be able to adapt its curriculum to the needs of each student. Ask for a sample course of study and review the school’s charter or curriculum guide to see if it’s a good intellectual fit for your child.
Charter schools must focus on the ultimate goal for its graduates: preparation for college and university. When your child applies for college, you want them to have an impressive resume and accomplishment list. In addition, your child needs to have top-notch test scores, a transcript with challenging courses, and a well-written essay to win admission to the best schools.
To accomplish this, charter schools must have resources to help students prepare for the college application process. They must offer access to a variety of preparation programs, such as SAT prep boot camps, college counselors, and advising.
To assess a charter school’s college readiness look up standardized test scores and graduation rates for the school. When you visit, ask them about college preparation resources. Do they offer college application advising or preparation courses? How many of their graduating students attend college, and what schools have they been accepted to? Asking these questions will help you gain a better sense of the school’s ability to prepare your child for college.
Choose Freedom Prep Academy
For excellent instruction, an expertly-delivered and challenging curriculum, and a comprehensive college preparation program, consider enrolling your child in Freedom Prep Academy. Voted Utah County’s best K-12 school, our program offers an innovative, inspiring, and collaborative approach to education. Contact Freedom Prep today to learn more about our curriculum and enrollment procedures.