A Look Inside Charter Schools

A Look Inside Charter Schools

Emily Hyun, Staff Writer

SCVi. Albert Einstein Academy. Both of these schools may sound familiar to you. You may be wondering: what are reasons for choosing project-based learning? Or why exactly is the school called an “academy”? The answer for both of those questions lies with the fact that both of these local schools are characterized as charter schools.

Charter schools are publicly funded, independent schools that are established by teachers, parents, or community groups under the terms of a charter. Because they are independent schools, they operate under more freedom than a regular public school. This allows them to be freed from certain restrictions by the government. Charter schools are schools of choice, meaning families choose to send their students to the school. But, the beauty of a charter school truly comes from the fact that they are still public schools, in the sense that anyone can apply without special entrance requirements and there is no tuition in order to attend. Believe it or not, charter schools are actually some of the top-performing schools in the country. They are able to create a unique, school culture and can adjust better to student needs.

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I attended two different charter schools for a total of four years. I’ve noticed that because of the small size of many charter schools, a very distinct school culture emerges. Between the 450 students at both of the charter schools I went to, there was more of a similarity between the people at school. After all, the very philosophies and names of many charter schools attract certain kinds of students and families. With many commonalities between students, there is an overall tight-knit community school-wide that is very close and connected. That is something which can be difficult to achieve at a large school such as West Ranch.

 

With that said, the differences are highlighted within the small pool of people. News, drama, and rumors can spread rapidly about people. If a student doesn’t feel like they belong to the community, they may also feel stuck in a seemingly unchanging culture with the same classmates year after year. But these differences can also be taken in a positive way, creating an open mindedness of cultures and values. Through frequent interactions with the same people at my charter school, I have made many valuable connections with peers that I would have never had a reason to associate myself with at a large, public school.

Again with the small class sizes, there are pros and cons. There were significantly less options in courses at my charter schools (no Honors, limited AP’s, fewer electives, etc.). However, these fewer classes allowed for a more diverse group of students to take similar classes, breaking down barriers between students of many academic levels. There were also many available opportunities for nearly anyone to join sports or clubs. It is much easier for new athletes and beginners, for example, to still get the chance to participate with a team in a competitive environment.

The greatest benefit that charter schools have to offer is a choice in what kind of education students can receive. Charter schools’ nontraditional style of educating and their ability to create a unique culture and social environment provide families with a schooling option that may better fit their students’ need.