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In the school district I work in, there are three charter schools as alternatives to the public schools in the district. A charter school is an elementary or secondary school that can receive public funding, but is freed from some of the rules and regulations that apply to public schools in exchange for some type of accountability for producing a specified result.
In light of issues that I've been involved in at my former public school, I have seen the worst in people in terms of political garbage. At my previous school, my immediate administrators have to answer to district office administrators, who have to answer to the board, all of whom have very intricate — and complicated — laws to follow. If, for example, a student brings drugs into a classroom, despite having rules that outline appropriate consequences, students won't always be held accountable. I've heard my former administrators say, "Well I think we should follow our discipline matrix, but I'm not sure it's worth the fight." They know parents will threaten them with legal action, and the district office administrators will instruct them to not uphold consequences. It gets very messy.
Charter schools, however, have the ability to hold their students to higher standards, and consistently and fairly enforce rules and consequences. Because the students know exactly what is expected of them, they follow rules, respond to boundaries, ultimately allowing them to achieve at higher levels because all they have to do is focus on achieving.
Another wonderful aspect of charter schools is that they can be tailored to individual students' needs. The charter schools with which I am familiar have art-based themes, individualized instruction, law-based curriculum, etc. They still require students to study English, math, science, social science and a foreign language, but the elective courses that they take are tailored to fit their interests and future career paths.
The only thing that, in my humble opinion, makes charter schools controversial is that they "take" students away from public schools who achieve at higher levels and have less behavior problems, leaving public schools with lower-achieving students and increased behavior problems. In recent conversations about charter schools with a couple of my administrators on different occasions, they both said, "It must be nice to be able to choose your students." My thought is, if you're holding students accountable, you'd have a lot more high-achieving, well-behaved students. Public schools should use charter schools as an example of how great schools operate.
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