Dr. Rich Patterson

Charter School or Public School?

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

  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 you 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, should be evaluated, as licensed teachers take classes in classroom management and they 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 causes a disruption in 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 can be 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 can give you answers to questions that you never thought of asking. Be sure to clear this in advance and no just show up one day.
  5. What are the extra-curricular, sports, and co-curricular programs that are offered at the school?  In many states, charter schools can join programs at the local school district level.  Transportation may need to be provided by the parent to and from the event.  Check to see if the school provides a bus service for after school activities.  What activities are provided?  Is there a charge for them?  Sometimes at charter schools there is a fee, in public school there will not be a fee unless it is related to uniforms etc.
  6. Transportation to and from school in the morning and afternoon.  Depending on state law, oftentimes transportation to and from school is the responsibility of the parent as bus transportation is often not provided.  Will that work for you?  Is the school in a location that you can get to and from easily and still carry on with your day?  There are many considerations here to think about.
  7. What are the values and mission of the school?  Public schools try to stay as neutral as they can and provide an all-around education for students.  This can certainly be debated, but overall most would agree that they do a good job in this area.  Charter schools generally have some 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 posted on their website.  Talk with other parents to make sure that what is being presented to your child agrees with how you would like for them to be raised and educated.  Look at their school calendar to see what events they hold during the school year.

These are a few of the considerations, not all can be addressed here.  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.

Yours for Better Parenting–Rich