What is a Charter School?

School in the Square is a “charter school” - what does that mean?

Most people don’t realize that charter schools are both tuition-free and open to all students - just like district public schools. What makes charter schools different from district public schools is that, while district schools are managed by government-appointed school boards, charter schools are managed privately. Private management, along with exemption from some state regulations and rules, give charter schools more flexibility to address students and communities in new and exciting ways with the hope of elevating primary education. While charter schools have the freedom to set all aspects of the educational lives of their students, these schools are still held to strict standards of accountability. Annual reviews (by the New York State Education Department for NY schools) ensure that charter schools continue to perform as promised based on the language in their approved charter - more on that in a bit.

A final major difference between district and charter public schools: charter schools receive reduced state funding, typically 20-25% less, than district schools. This loss is often made up through fundraising efforts and grants. School in the Square is grateful to its generous grantmakers and community of supporters who helped build the school and who continue to support its daily operations.

Why is it called a “charter school”?

A “charter” is a lengthy legal document written by the school’s founders laying out every detail of their plan to create a successful school. This includes everything from curriculum choices and grading policies, to hiring practices, to plans to build or renovate the physical space. The charter is then submitted to a charter school “authorizer” which, in New York, means the State University of New York, New York State's Education Department's Board of Regents, and the New York City Department of Education. The authorizer reviews the charter and either approves or declines it based on their assessment. School in the Square’s charter was approved in November, 2015 - it was one of only three approved charters that year, out of 51 applicants.

A bit of history.

The charter school movement started in 1991, with the first charter school opening in Minnesota in 1992. The concept was developed with three basic values in mind: opportunity, choice, and responsibility. Put another way: charter schools were born out of the desire to move public education away from test-taking as the primary measure of success and towards measuring actual student growth. These principles are at the core of everything we do at School in the Square.

Currently 44 states (+D.C.) have passed charter school laws, and over 6900 charter schools nationwide are serving over 3 million students.1 As of the 2017-2018 school year, New York City has 227 charter schools, serving 114,000 students - that is 10% of the city’s population of primary-school students.2

Visit the sites below for even more information on charter schools and the charter school movement:


1  https://www.publiccharters.org/about-charter-schools/charter-school-faq

2  http://www.nyccharterschools.org/sites/default/files/resources/NYC-Charter-Facts.pdf