Washington State approved the formation of charter schools in 2012 (https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/charter-schools-narrowly-win-approval-in-washington/). The approval was for up to 40 schools. What’s happened since the approval? Today we bring you a information that may be useful in judging the utility and value. Where do you go to learn more about charter schools in Washington State? https://wacharters.org/
Here is a link to the 2019 Washington State Charter School Report in case you want details: WA_Statre_Charter_School_Performance_Report_2019
Why consider a Charter School?
- You are not happy with public schools
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions and answers:
Are charter schools public schools?
Yes. Charter schools are a type of public school. Like all public schools, they are:
- Open to all students
- Publicly funded
- Staffed by certified teachers
- Held accountable to state and national standards
However, charter public schools are held more accountable for showing improved student achievement. In exchange for greater accountability, teachers and principals are given more flexibility to customize their teaching methods and curriculum to improve student learning, and have more flexibility around things like staffing and length of the school day and school year.
Who can attend a charter public school?
Any student in Washington state can attend a charter public school, and they do not have to compete for a spot at the school. However, if more students want to attend a specific charter school than there are spaces available, enrollment is determined by a random lottery.
What are the charter school choices in Southwest Washington State? Answer: Zero. There are only 10 charter schools in the state and most of those are in Pierce and King Counties
How do the results at charter public schools compare to other public schools?
Washington’s charter public schools are already making a difference for students.According to 2015-16 mid-year and end-of-year assessment results, students at Washington’s charter public schools are making impressive gains in reading and math.
In context, the vast majority of students attending Washington charter public schools entered their charter school a year or more behind in math and reading. Many students previously performing behind national averages are now on track to meet or exceed grade-level standards.
Nationwide, 15 of 16 independent studies found that students attending charter public schools perform better academically than their peers at traditional public schools.
What kinds of oversight do charter public schools have?
Many checks and balances ensure charter public schools provide a quality education. Just like any other Washington public school, charter schools are overseen by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. Public charter schools also have to comply with the same state and federal laws regarding health, safety, civil rights, and nondiscrimination as every other public school. Public charter schools must meet the same academic standards as any public school. Teachers have to meet the same certification requirements as any public school teacher, and students have to take the same standardized tests.
The boards that oversee charter public schools are subject to state and non-profit financial audits and have to answer to the community. Since families choose their charter schools, those schools are directly accountable to parents and must ensure they are meeting parents’ standards and expectations.
How does a charter public school get authorized?
To authorize a charter public school, a nonprofit organization applies to an authorizer.
In Washington, there is a statewide authorizer, the Washington State Charter School Commission. Spokane Public Schools is currently the state’s only district authorizer, and oversees the two charter public schools in Spokane.
The application is rigorous and requires:
- A detailed curriculum
- A facility and financial plan
- Demonstration of parent and community support
- Plans for serving students with special needs
- A targeted plan for recruiting students in underserved communities
- Evidence that the proposed educational program is based on proven methods
The process also includes an opportunity for the community to provide input during a public forum.
After a charter public school’s application is approved, the school enters into a contractual relationship with the state or district level authorizer. The contract requires extensive oversight of financial and academic performance, and charter public schools must seek reauthorization every five years.
The biggest negative argument from those who oppose charter schools is the claim they put profit over education. However, in public schools the sale of textbooks and testing material is a multi billion dollar business. Wages consume nearly 80% of the money spent and the teachers unions have considerable power and influence so the “profit” motive appears to exist across education and not just charter schools. As to whether you support the concept or not is a personal choice.