Selected readings on US charter schools
According to the Arizona Charter Schools Association, roughly 25 percent of the state’s public schools are charters and 13.5 percent of all public-school students attend charter schools compared to a national average of about 4 percent. Ten states do not allow charter schools, which are defined as free public schools that are privately managed and attended by choice as opposed to the geographic boundaries that place kids in most public schools.
In the past year, 15 new charters schools have opened in Arizona, adding 10,000 additional students for a total of 142,368 students attending 535 charter schools statewide.
Lake Havasu City’s charter schools have also seen growth.
At Havasu Preparatory Academy, the number of pupils has increased from 118 in 2011 to 300 for the upcoming school year. HPA is opening a new junior high school building in the fall, as well as adding a 9th grade-class and a second 5th-grade class. Wait lists have been established for the kindergarten and 4th-grade classes.
“We did not to expect to grow that fast in two years,” said Julia Angel, school leader. “The community has really supported our program. The families enrolled can see the great things that we are doing.”
Asked why she feels that charter schools are attracting students, Angel cited small class sizes and a streamlined chain of command.
“Charter schools are becoming more popular because our organizational structure is different than many local districts,” she explained. “I am my own district. … When it comes down to purchasing and other decisions, it is me.”
Sandy Breece, founder and principal of Telesis Preparatory Academy, a K-12 school, also cited individual attention as a motivator for parents to sign their kids up for a charter school.
“Every charter has a different focus,” she explained. “Ours is all about individualization. We feel that the individual attention and small class sizes give students choices that they don’t get in a traditional public school.”
Like HPA, her school has seen a steady rise in enrollment — 500 students are signed up for the next school year compared to 450 last year.
As a sign of success, Breece pointed to test scores showing Telesis students are above the state average in math and reading. The most recent U.S. News rankings also placed Telesis at the bronze level — the top 25 percent in the nation — in its evaluations of 21,000 high schools across the country.
“We’ve prepared our students for college and a career,” Breece said. “We just graduated our first class with 100 percent continuing their education. In total, they earned $135,000 in scholarships.”
Nevertheless, charter schools also have plenty of detractors, with critics saying that they have too little accountability, often hire uncertified teachers and can’t be scaled up to handle the majority of the nation’s children.
However, the growth shows no signs of slowing. Some experts estimate charter school enrollment could double by 2020.
Source: Today’s News-Herald – by Kim Burgess