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Charter Schools vs Public/Private Schools

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: I read an article today on charter schools versus private schools. What can you tell me about charter schools? How do they differ from public/private schools? My son will start kindergarten in August, and I would like to begin finding him a good school to attend. Any information you can give me would be very much appreciated.

A: Charter schools are part of the reinvention of public education. They first emerged in the 1990s as a prominent and controversial school reform idea. Parents, teachers, and community organizations are the founders of most charter schools, but some are started by for-profit companies. Charter schools are public schools that have been freed of many restrictive rules and regulations. In return, these schools are expected to achieve specific educational outcomes within a certain period (usually three to five years) or have their charters revoked.

There are no typical charter schools. Typically smaller than public schools, 60 percent of charter schools have fewer than 200 students. They also tend to have different grade configurations from other public schools, such as kindergarten through grade 8 or 12, and ungraded schools. Unlike public schools, some charter schools focus on a particular subject area such as math, science, the arts, or technology.

Begin your search for a good school for your child by gathering material from several schools to become acquainted with what they have to offer. At the kindergarten level, you are looking for a school that stresses learning through activities rather than academics. You don't want to enroll your child in a kindergarten that looks like a miniature first grade.

You can't just look at the kindergarten program, but must look at how your child will fit in the total elementary program. Consider class size, as well as what subjects are emphasized and how they are taught. Your final step is to visit each school when it is in session so that you are able to absorb the atmosphere and see if it's right for your child. Pay close attention to how students and teachers interact. If a school stresses a particular subject such as art, science, or music, consider carefully whether or not this is where your child's interest lies.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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