Charter school FAQ: Academics

February 5, 2018 ACSA Writer

From the California Charter School Associationan ACSA Partner

What types of educational programs do charters offer?

Every charter school is allowed the freedom to create its own educational methodology. Teachers, students, parents and administrators all have a say in the types of instructional methods, materials and academic programs the school offers. Charter school models include, but are not limited to: college preparation, dual language immersion, performing arts, math, science, technology and much more. Furthermore, all academic programs must align with the Common Core State Standards, and charter school students must participate in state required standardized testing. Charter schools must also develop a Local Control Accountability Plan, which is a required component for the Local Control Funding Formula.

Are charter schools held academically accountable?

Charter public schools, unlike traditional public schools, are academically accountable in two ways. They are held accountable by their authorizer and, most importantly, by the families they serve. When a team of school developers submit their charter petition, they must define their academic goals. To be authorized, their goals must be rigorous. In order to stay open, they must meet or exceed those goals.

Families make the choice to enroll their children in charter schools, and families can remove them if they are dissatisfied with the school. A charter school that neglects its academic duties will soon find that its enrollment has dwindled, and major changes may be necessary for the school to remain open.

California law gives charter schools autonomy and flexibility in exchange for increased accountability. Charter schools must be renewed at least every five years by the school district or authorizer to ensure they have good academic results, and that they are operating in a fiscally and operationally responsible manner. CCSA advocates for rigorous academic accountability so that chronically underperforming charter schools are closed and higher performing charter schools can help even greater numbers of students achieve academic success.

Do charter school teachers have to have credentials?

In California, charter schools are required to hire credentialed teachers for core and college preparatory subjects just like all traditional public schools.

What programs do charter schools offer for students with special needs?

As public schools, charter schools are required to enroll and serve students with disabilities in the same manner as traditional public schools and in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws. In fact, because charter schools have more flexibility than traditional public schools, they are designed to offer innovative educational strategies and provide individualized support to meet the needs of all students, including those with disabilities and other unique challenges. In order to support students with special needs, charter schools will often tailor their educational program or create specialized programs.

In California, a charter school may be part of an LEA (the authorizer) or may be an independent LEA for special education purposes. When a charter school is part of an LEA, the authorizer maintains responsibility for special education and retains full control over special education programs at the charter school site, unless an alternative arrangement is negotiated through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). When a charter operates as its own LEA for special education purposes, it assumes full responsibility for special education but also gains the funding and flexibility to design and implement innovative programs that align with the charter school's mission and needs of its students.

Depending on a student's individual needs and the type of special education arrangement, offering appropriate special education services may result in the charter school working with a school district program, a non-public school or agency, or another charter school to provide a level or type of service that is not available at the individual charter school site. Ultimately, the student's parents and representatives (the IEP team) make the final determination of the best educational option and services for the student.


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Charter school FAQ: Admission, oversight, & funding
Charter school FAQ: Admission, oversight, & funding

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