The people behind the National Charter Schools Week, which kicked off Monday and will run through May 12th, 2012, have really got something to celebrate. This year marks the twenty-year anniversary of the first public charter school, an experiment that began in 1991 in Minnesota and has now spread to 41 states and the District of Columbia.
“Over the past 20 years, Americans from all backgrounds have experienced the transformational benefits of high-quality public charter schools, and National Charter Schools Week raises awareness of the continued need to expand access to these schools for millions of additional children,” said Ursula Wright, interim president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Despite significant progress in recent years, a great deal of work remains if we are to ensure that every state in the country allows effective and accountable charter schools for children.”
The growth of charters has been enormous, especially in the last decade. The number of students enrolled in charters nationwide has grown by over 76%. There are at least 5,672 charters currently operating in the U.S, which represents nearly a 40% growth since 2007.
The purpose of the National Charter School Week is to publicize the many successes achieved by charters and encourage educational stakeholders to petition their lawmakers for expansion of their states’ school choice programs.
Public charter schools are free to the student and operate as open-enrollment. They are run independently of the local school districts, with full control over curriculum and staffing decisions. They are at least partially funded by the state, although some schools supplement their funding via private donations. In most cases, charters are judged by the same standards as traditional public schools, although some localities impose stricter oversight measures.
Studies indicate that effective public charter schools are making a significant impact on student achievement. Research from a RAND study, as well as a Betts and Tang meta-analysis indicates that public charter schools increase high school graduation and college acceptance rates, and provide significant benefits to students from low-income neighborhoods or students who are struggling in traditional public schools.
The National Charter School Week is organized by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a non-profit whose goal is to expand student access to charters.
Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement for all students by fostering a strong charter sector. 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.