Dr. Rich Patterson

Charter School or Public School?

You are deciding where to best place your child is difficult today with all of the choices.  Let’s take a quick look at some of the considerations that may affect your choice, in no particular order, although I would certainly recommend looking at all of them, plus any others you may discover.

  1.  The schools’ academic performance.  In most states, you can go to your state department of education’s website and look up the test scores for the various academic areas, such as math, reading, literacy, social studies, science.  Take a look specifically at the scores for the grade level in which your child would be entering.  Test scores may vary according to the teacher in the classroom and their effectiveness.  Is that teacher still at the school from last year when the scores were evaluated, or have they left?  What is the experience level of the teacher?
  2. Are the teachers required to be licensed?  In public schools, the answer is a resounding yes.  In charter schools, it depends on state law, and often they are not required to be licensed.  That may or may not matter to you; however, it is a factor as licensed teachers take classes in classroom management and develop specific skills and instructional strategies for teaching reading, math, science, and other content-specific skills.
  3. How is the school funded?  Is it nonprofit or for-profit?  What is the likely hood of the charter school staying in business?  Depending on state law, local school districts can close a charter school for various reasons, resulting in you having to change schools again for your student.  Often this disrupts their education, friends, and social confidence.
  4. Does your child do better in smaller settings?  In general, charter schools can have smaller class sizes, which is an advantage. Do students get more help in the smaller class size school?  Take a chance to observe a couple of classes in the school.  Taking this opportunity can be arranged through the Principal’s office and give you answers to questions you never thought of asking. Be sure to clear this in advance and not just show up one day.
  5. What are the extra-curricular, sports, and co-curricular programs offered at the school?  Charter schools can join programs at the local school district level in many states.  Transportation may need to be provided by the parent to and from the event.  Check to see if the school offers a bus service for after-school activities.  What activities does the school provide?  Is there a charge for them?  Sometimes, there is a fee; there will not be a fee in public school unless it is related to uniforms, etc.
  6. Transportation to and from school.  Depending on state law, transportation to and from school is often the parent’s responsibility as bus transportation is usually not provided.  Will that work for you?  Is the location convenient for the family?  There are many considerations here to ponder.
  7. What are the values and mission of the school?  Public schools try to stay neutral and provide a comprehensive education for students.  Be aware of this philosophy; however, most agree that they do an excellent job in this area.  Charter schools generally have specific needs they are trying to address, or they may serve a particular type of student, ethnicity, or student achievement level.  Be sure that you read beyond what is on their website.  Talk with other parents to ensure that what you understand agrees with how you would like them to be taught.  Look at their school calendar to see what events they hold during the school year.

This post has a few considerations; there are more. In general, do your diligence in discovering all that you can about any school to be sure it is the best match toward helping your child to be successful.

Here is a link to a seven-part series that I wrote on charter schools; read part 1 here, Parenting on Purpose: Charter Schools & Questions, Pt. 1 – Dr. Rich Patterson (

Charter Schools USA is a good site for more information regarding the charter school, Charter Schools USA

Yours for Better Parenting,