The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is celebrating the 20th anniversary of public charter schools in the US with with a four day conference expected to gather thousands of school teachers, leaders, advocates and district officials.
The first public charter school opened in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1992 and was called City Academy. Its creation heralded a new dawn where communities could create independent public schools to provide parents with more public school options and teachers with a richer work environment and greater flexibility to serve the diverse needs of students. The movement reached one million students in 2006 and has continued to grow at a rapid pace, surpassing two million students in 2011. Despite more than 5,600 charter schools now operating across 41 states and DC thousands of students still remain on waiting lists to attend the charter school of their choice.
"These past 20 years have proven that in communities across the country, public charter schools are delivering on their promise to provide innovative education and drive student achievement," said Ursula Wright, interim president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "We are excited not only to celebrate the movement's milestones, but also to ensure we continue progressing forward until every state allows for effective and accountable public charter schools for their children."
Other milestones in the history of charter schools include 1994 when Congress provided funding for the creation of charter schools by communities: 1997 when the number of states allowing charter schools rose past the 50% mark; 2005, when NAPCS was formed to establish national leadership on quality and accountability for charter school; and 2008, when both presidential candidates pledged support for charter school expansion.
Charter school are tuition free public schools allowed greater freedom for innovation in exchange for increased accountability for the improvement of student achievement. The open enrollment schools are based on a partnership between parents, teachers and students.
Public charter schools have achieved bipartisan support over the years, currently enrolling five percent of the nation's public school students. Research from a RAND study, as well as a Betts and Tang meta-analysis indicates that 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 Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement. Its stated mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector.