What is a Charter School | What County

What is a Charter School

“Charter schools” are part of the public school system in the United States. They are financed by tax revenues, but are operated by private organizations or often profit-oriented companies. The first such schools appeared in the early nineties. “Charter” refers to the contract that the operators conclude with the respective school authority. According to an advocacy group for “charter schools,” nearly 7 percent of public schools in the U.S. were “charter schools” in 2014. They exist in 42 of the 50 member states.

What is a Charter School
What is a Charter School
Charter School
Charter School

(Source NZZ. Nov. 2015)

One characteristic of this type of school is that they consider their success or failure to be measurable and comparable. What matters is the results of exams, as well as the rates of school diplomas. This quantitative approach is peculiar not only to the “charter schools”: the school reform of President G. W. Bush (“No Child Left Behind”) entailed such methods for all schools. President Bill Clinton also promoted the advent of “charter schools”. However, President Obama had admitted that testing and testing in American schools was going too far.

Charter schools are intended to be an alternative to the other public schools and thus also generate competition. Many ambitious parents who have no money for a private school enroll their children in the charter schools. They are very unpopular, especially among teachers.

After Hurricane Katrina flooded large parts of New Orleans in 2003 and destroyed the majority of schools, the authorities decided to make a radical new start. They transferred almost all New Orleans public schools to the charter model. Since then, student achievement and graduation rates have been steadily increasing, prompting former Education Secretary Arne Duncan to say that Hurricane Katrine was the best thing that could have happened to New Orleans’ education system. Later, however, he had to apologize for this statement.

Bad schools in dilapidated buildings, unmotivated teachers and an atmosphere of violence. This is what education looks like in the problem neighborhoods of American cities. In international level comparisons, the US scores mediocre, even abysmal in some subjects such as mathematics.

Metropolises such as Chicago, New York or Los Angeles are therefore trying to offer poor families in their inner cities an alternative – charter schools. These are financed with tax money, but run by independent operators. They are allowed to hire teachers of their choice, pay success-based wages, experiment with curricula and attach great importance to discipline. Charter schools are approved in most states, in some as for-profit companies, in others as non-profit organizations. The schools are free of charge and so popular with parents that the places are awarded in lotteries in some places. The idea originally came from the radical liberal American economist Milton Friedman: the state pays for a service, but does not organize its provision centrally, but leaves it to private individuals.

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