Everything you need to know—and more! Find answers to frequent questions about public charter schools.

What are public charter schools — and how are they public?

Charter schools are independently-managed public schools operated by approved nonprofit organizations. Just like traditional public schools, charter schools are funded by local, state, and federal…

Charter schools are independently-managed public schools operated by approved nonprofit organizations. Just like traditional public schools, charter schools are funded by local, state, and federal tax dollars based on student enrollment, but they have the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for improved student achievement.

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Where and when are charter schools opening in Washington?

Currently, there are eight authorized schools in Washington State, and you can find their locations by visiting our map here.  The state’s first charter school,…

Currently, there are eight authorized schools in Washington State, and you can find their locations by visiting our map here.  The state’s first charter school, First Place Scholars, opened in September 2014; another eight are slated to open in Fall 2015, and one in Fall 2016. To learn more about the authorized schools and their locations, please visit our “Find a School” page, where you can find links to each school’s website.

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How can I enroll my child in a public charter school?

Each charter school has its own admission process. You can submit an application for your child directly to the school.

Each charter school has its own admission process. You can submit an application for your child directly to the school.

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What makes charter schools successful?

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, charter schools are successful because they are: Fostering New Strategies for Student Success: Charter schools allow…

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, charter schools are successful because they are:

  • Fostering New Strategies for Student Success: Charter schools allow teachers the freedom to be more innovative in the classroom, using strategies that are new to Washington — but proven to improve student achievement. By giving teachers the ability to bring proven methods to help students learn, charter schools are developing effective new teaching models that can be replicated in traditional public schools. With the flexibility to modernize and develop successful new education practices, teachers improve learning and share results with the wider public school system for broader benefits.
  • Increasing Achievement in Underserved Communities: Charter schools believe all students are capable of learning and succeeding, and provide an important public school option to students from underserved communities and low income areas. By creating an environment tailored to these students’ needs, charter schools have successfully demonstrated that underserved children can achieve at the same levels as their peers in more affluent communities.  Additionally, charter schools bring programs to disadvantaged neighborhoods that serve the whole community, providing parents with education on parenting, nutrition and more.

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I don’t see a charter school listed in my area. How can my children get access to a charter school?

The charter school movement is a truly democratic process — schools serve local family demand, ideally with local, talented teachers and leaders. If you know…

The charter school movement is a truly democratic process — schools serve local family demand, ideally with local, talented teachers and leaders. If you know a leader who might be interested in starting a charter school in your area, please connect them with us so that we can provide more information.

However, the most important thing you can do is to help the movement grow by reaching out to your local legislative representative to voice your support for charter schools. Make sure your voice is heard!

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What makes charter schools different?

Charter schools are free from many rules and regulations that apply to traditional public schools, so they have more flexibility to set curriculum and budgets,…

Charter schools are free from many rules and regulations that apply to traditional public schools, so they have more flexibility to set curriculum and budgets, select teachers and staff, and offer more customized learning experiences for students. This means that teachers and principals have more flexibility at the school level to meet the needs of their students and help them succeed.  It also means that parents have more options within the public school system to find the best learning environment for their children.

In exchange for this flexibility, charter schools are held more accountable for showing improved student achievement. Public charter schools must meet the same state and federal academic standards as traditional public schools, but they are subject to additional rigorous academic, financial, and managerial requirements as specified in their charter contract — and to ongoing monitoring to evaluate their success in improving student outcomes.

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How are Charter Schools Making a Difference?

The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools cites the following results which show that charter schools are making a difference: 16 academic studies have been…

The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools cites the following results which show that charter schools are making a difference:

  • 16 academic studies have been published on charter school performance since 2010, including four national studies and 12 regional studies from throughout the country. 15 of the 16 found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. One study found mixed results. The most recent of those studies, by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University, found that charter schools do a better job than traditional schools at teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English.
  • In 25 schools districts around the country, more than 20 percent of all students attend a public charter school. New Orleans has a higher percentage of children in charter schools than anywhere else in the country. Students attending public charter schools in New Orleans learn an additional four months in reading and five months in math than their peers attending traditional public schools. Statewide, students attending public charter schools in Louisiana gained an additional 50 days of learning in reading and 65 days in math compared to their peers attending traditional public schools.
  • Children who attend charter schools are more likely to graduate from high school than their traditional school peers.
  • At one charter school in Arizona, BASIS, students scored higher on an international test called the PISA than students from anywhere in the world. At the Success Academy charter school in Harlem, every fourth grader passed the state’s science exam. In 2012, every high school senior at an Uncommon charter school took the SAT exam, achieving an average score that was 20 points above the College Board’s benchmark for college readiness.
  • And charter schools continue to disproportionately top the lists of America’s best high schools in Newsweek, US News and World Report, and the Washington Post. In fact, more than a quarter of the best high schools on these lists  are charter schools.

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Who is in charge of public charter schools?

Charter schools are approved by and accountable to their authorizers.  The word “authorizer” refers to the state entity or institution that has the legal right…

Charter schools are approved by and accountable to their authorizers.  The word “authorizer” refers to the state entity or institution that has the legal right to issue charters to those who want to open public charter schools. An authorizer is also responsible for oversight of these schools.

The word “charter” is the same as a “contract.” A “charter” is granted to a new public charter school and covers the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure student success. Washington’s charter school law requires strict oversight and accountability. Charter schools are subject to annual performance reviews as well as ongoing oversight by the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to measure their success in improving student outcomes.

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How are public charter schools funded?

Charter schools are funded based on student enrollment, just like traditional public schools. When a student transfers from a traditional public school to a public…

Charter schools are funded based on student enrollment, just like traditional public schools. When a student transfers from a traditional public school to a public charter school, the funding associated with that student follows him or her to the public charter school. Public charter schools do not add any new costs to the state’s public education system. They simply move funding associated with a student from one public school to another based upon the decisions of families.

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How will struggling students benefit from charter schools?

Charter schools offer all students best practices and innovative learning opportunities designed to increase their academic success and ensure they are ready for college and…

Charter schools offer all students best practices and innovative learning opportunities designed to increase their academic success and ensure they are ready for college and career. Research from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University shows that charter schools are particularly effective in benefiting low-income students, students from communities of color and English-language learners.

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What about special education services?

Washington state charter schools serve all students, including those with special needs. Charter schools also have more flexibility than traditional public schools, so they are…

Washington state charter schools serve all students, including those with special needs. Charter schools also have more flexibility than traditional public schools, so they are uniquely situated to provide high-quality educational services to students with various learning needs.

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How will charter schools decide which students to accept?

Any student in Washington state can attend a charter school, and they do not have to compete for a spot at the school. However, if…

Any student in Washington state can attend a charter 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.

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Will public charter schools abide by education laws and the Common Core State Standards?

Yes. Charter schools, like all public schools, must follow Washington state and federal health, safety, civil rights, and anti-discrimination laws, as well as Washington state…

Yes. Charter schools, like all public schools, must follow Washington state and federal health, safety, civil rights, and anti-discrimination laws, as well as Washington state K-12 education statutes, including the Common Core State Standards.

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How can I get involved?

There are a number of ways that you can get involved in opening or supporting charter schools. Take a look at our Get Involved page…

There are a number of ways that you can get involved in opening or supporting charter schools. Take a look at our Get Involved page to learn more.

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What is the role of parents in charter schools?

Charter schools encourage parental involvement and provide a range of opportunities, from volunteering in the classroom, committing to at-home reading time, attending functions, or serving…

Charter schools encourage parental involvement and provide a range of opportunities, from volunteering in the classroom, committing to at-home reading time, attending functions, or serving on a school council. Every charter school is different, so visit your charter school’s website to learn more. To learn more, download the WA Charters Fact Sheet.

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How can I find out about opportunities to teach or volunteer at a charter school?

Bookmark and visit our job board, where public charter schools post teaching and volunteer opportunities.  WA Charters also sends out a newsletter with updates including…

Bookmark and visit our job board, where public charter schools post teaching and volunteer opportunities.  WA Charters also sends out a newsletter with updates including opportunities to be involved in public schools, so click here and sign up to receive updates via e-mail.

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How many charter schools may be established in Washington state?

Currently, the law states that no more than 40 public charter schools may be established over a five-year period in Washington state, and no more…

Currently, the law states that no more than 40 public charter schools may be established over a five-year period in Washington state, and no more than eight may be established per year during that same five-year period.

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Where can I find more information about high-quality public charter schools?

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is a leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement. The Alliance provides assistance to…

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is a leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement. The Alliance provides assistance to state charter school associations and resource centers, develops and advocates for improved public policies, and serves as the united voice for this large and diverse movement. You can also download the WA Charters Fact Sheet.

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