What is a Charter School?

Finding a school for your child with an engaging, challenging curriculum isn’t easy.

Or is it?

If you want more than a traditional school can offer, a charter school is your best course of action.

But what is a charter school?

Essentially, a charter school is a public school of choice. Public charter schools are tuition-free, non-profit organizations that are independently run. This allows for greater flexibility and accountability for performance.

In this article, we’ll answer all your public charter school questions, from how do charter schools work to what to look for in one.

How to Use this Article

This article was written to answer all your public charter school questions. Whether you want to understand what curriculum they use or how they compare to traditional public schools, you can use this article to find the answer you need. If you don’t know where to start, we recommend you read the whole thing through and bookmark it to come back to throughout your school search. If you’ve already been researching charter schools, go ahead and click through to the section that will best answer your questions.

Content Overview

How Do Charter Schools Work?

Public charter schools are public schools that operate under a charter (similar to a contract) with the state or local school boards. The charter details their mission, educational philosophy, programs offered, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessment.

Why does this matter?

The charter serves as a promise to the parents. It goes over what their children will learn and the standards that will be upheld.

Uniquely, charter schools are kind of like a hybrid of private and public school.

They are independent enough to choose their own curriculum, experiment with different teaching methods, and create their own academic schedule.

However, they are still accountable to a governing body, do not charge tuition, and cannot discriminate based on religion, disability, gender or any other protected class.

Bottom line?

Public charter schools have the benefits of both worlds, resulting in the ideal academic environment for your child.

What Curriculum Do Public Charter Schools Use?

No two charter schools use the same curriculum.

A major benefit of public charter schools is that they are able to choose their own curriculum and are flexible with their teaching methods.

Everyone involved – the teachers, students, parents, administrators – has a say in the types of instructional methods, materials, and programs.

In fact, a lot of charter schools are formed because the administrators want to focus on a certain educational philosophy and provide a better learning environment than traditional public education.

Here’s the deal:

Public charter schools have more freedom than a traditional school, but they still have to participate in state required standardized testing, and in most states, the teachers are still required to be credentialed just like traditional schools.

In the school’s charter, their academic goals are clearly defined. To be authorized, the goals must be rigorous and in order to stay open, they must meet or exceed those goals. If a charter school does not meet the academic goals set in the charter, they will close.

For reference, our public charter school complies with all standards set forth by the Florida Department of Education, including all standardized tests and End of Course Exams.

Related: 5 Signs the Traditional Approach to Education Isn’t Working for Your Child [Hint: Personalized Learning Plays a Role]

What to Look for in a Public Charter School

As a parent, you like choices. Especially when it comes to seeking a quality education for your child.

When you begin your search for a public charter school, there are 6 things that you should research to see if it’s the right fit for you and your child.

  1. Mission/Vision
    A lot of charter schools are founded because the administrators have a specific educational philosophy in mind. When you’re looking for a public charter school, be sure that you find out what their mission is and what separates them from traditional public schools.
  2. Faculty
    Since public charter schools have more accountability, be sure that you find out about the quality of the faculty. Also, ask them how their teachers encourage authentic, engaging learning opportunities.
  3. Class Size
    One of the main reasons that you might be seeking out a charter school is because you want your child to get more personal attention from their teachers. Class size has a lot to do with this, so look into the average class size at the public charter schools you’re considering.
  4. School Culture/Community
    Before you send your child to a school, you want to understand what the community is like. How do they ensure a safe, supportive environment? You want your child to feel accepted for who they are, and their school community has a lot to do with that.
  5. Curriculum
    Since public charter schools have more freedom with their curriculum, you’ll want to understand how their curriculum is different than a public education. How does the school’s mission impact the curriculum?
  6. Engaging Learning Environment
    A study by the Center for American Progress reported that 51 percent of eighth grade civics students and 57 percent of eighth grade history students found their work was often or always too easy.

    With traditional public education, your child likely won’t get as much personal attention, and they might be disengaged from the material.

    If that’s your child, you might be looking for a charter school that challenges the status quo approach to learning. When researching charter schools, find out how the charters you’re looking at will provide an engaging learning environment that encourages your child to think outside the box and challenges them academically. Maybe they use a project-based or self-directed learning approach.

For more information, see: What is Project Based Learning?

How can you best use this information?

Write out the top public charter schools you’re considering, and then write out a list of questions you have. Begin researching online or calling the schools to find the answers you need to make an informed decision.

As a public charter school in Gainesville, Florida, we seek to engage children through project based and social emotional learning, empowering them to think critically, persevere with grit, design creative solutions, and act with mindfulness and compassion. If you want to discover how we can inspire your child, contact us now.

Charter Schools vs. Public Schools (Why the Traditional Approach to Education Doesn’t Work for Everyone)

When you started your research for public charter schools, you saw that charter schools are public schools of choice.

You might be wondering: what’s the difference? How do charter schools and public schools compare?

In reality, there’s one main difference: Charter schools have a flexible curriculum, giving them more control over the educational philosophy they uphold. Usually this means that charters go beyond the traditional approach to education.

According to the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, “The annual report on public charter school student achievement published by the Florida Department of Education found that charter school students outperformed their peers in traditional public schools in almost all achievement areas.”


The traditional approach doesn’t work for everyone.

People have different learning styles. Some learn better visually, some learn better aurally, etc. The traditional approach doesn’t take everyone into consideration.

So, where do you send your child if you want them to have a more personalized learning experience, tuition-free?

That’s where charter schools come in.

Public charter schools offer:

  1. Personalized Approach – With personalized learning, your child’s school will take their strengths, needs, and interests into consideration. Then teachers provide the support they need to truly master a subject at the highest standards.
  2. Collaborative Learning – With small class sizes and different approaches to learning (like project-based learning), children are encouraged to work closely together to solve problems.
  3. Self-Directed Learning Opportunities – Whereas the traditional approach focuses on the teacher, a lot of charter schools are student-centered and value your child’s interests and opinions, encouraging deeper thought.
  4. Personal Growth – Instead of just focusing on academic growth, many charter schools also emphasize social emotional learning (SEL). SEL teaches students to understand and manage their emotions, establish and maintain positive relationships, feel and show empathy, set and achieve goals, and make responsible decisions.

According to a 2011 analysis of 213 studies involving more than 270,000 students who participated in SEL programs, students who took part in SEL programs showed improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school. There was even an increase in academic achievement compared to students who did not participate in SEL programs.

Your child’s school should focus on more than just test scores. While public schools focus on the traditional, nonpersonal approach to learning, charter schools have flexibility with their curriculum to offer personalized learning opportunities.

Related: Do Charter Schools Work?

What is Project Based Learning?

During your research for charter schools, you may have come across the term project based learning (PBL).

But what does that really mean?

Project based learning is a dynamic approach to learning. Instead of focusing on test scores, PBL shifts the focus to evaluating your child’s learning style along the way, emphasizing self-reflection and goal-setting.

With PBL, your child will take a deeper dive into the concepts, collaborate with others, conduct their own research, and take full ownership and responsibility for their projects.

Many charter schools offer PBL as a way to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. According to researchers at Texas A&M, PBL provides the contextualized, authentic experiences necessary for children to understand academic concepts.

Instead of just memorizing material, your child can truly master the subject they’re learning and understand difficult concepts.

Related: Top 5 Essentials to Project Based Learning

Overall, with small class sizes, personalized learning opportunities, and a flexible curriculum, charter schools focus on personal growth and development in addition to academic growth. This emphasis results in a positive, safe, supportive community where your child will feel accepted for who they are and be excited to learn again.

At Resilience Charter School, we inspire academic excellence and active citizenship, empowering Alachua County youth.

Want to Discover How We Can Inspire Your Child?

Resilience Charter School Earns Cognia Accreditation

Cognia offers accreditation and certification, assessment, professional learning, and improvement solutions to institutions and other education providers. As a global nonprofit working in over 80 countries, Cognia serves 36,000 institutions, nearly 25 million students, and five million educators every day.