Summary

Share the Truth About Charters and help dispel common myths that persist about California's charter public schools.

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Overview

The public has never been more supportive of California's charter public schools. Yet while charter schools enjoy strong support, there are vocal critics who perpetuate a number of myths. Through our series, the Truth About Charters, we hope to clarify common misperceptions by providing responses based on fact and independent research. Click on each Truth tab above to learn more.

Truth #1: Charter schools are public schools.

Charter schools do not have selective admissions requirements and accept every student who wishes to attend, regardless of prior academic experience.

Truth #2: Charter schools are open to all families.

Charter schools do not have selective admissions requirements and accept every student who wishes to attend, regardless of prior academic experience.

Truth #3: Charter schools serve all students.

Charter schools accept all students including English Learners, students with special needs and students of color.

Truth #4: Charter schools get results.

Charter schools are helping students unlock their full academic potential. Studies show that charter school students are learning more each year and graduating ready for college and career at higher rates.

Truth #5: Charter schools are accountable.

The advantage of charter public schools is that they are granted more flexibility in their approach to education, leading to higher student learning. In exchange for this flexibility, charter schools must meet high standards of accountability. In addition to being required to meet state and federal education standards, they must also meet high student achievement goals and rigorous academic, financial and managerial standards.

Additional resources are available in the Charter School Resource Library.

Truth #1: Charter schools are public schools

Charter schools are public schools as defined in federal and state law. They must meet the same academic standards that all public schools

are required to meet. Charter schools are:

  • Tuition-free and open to all students.
  • Non-sectarian, and do not discriminate on any basis.
  • Publicly funded by local, state, and federal tax dollars based on enrollment, like other public schools.
  • Held accountable to state and federal academic standards.
  • Non-profit organizations that do not earn profits. In California, less than 1% of charter schools are organized as for-profit corporations.



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Truth #2: Charter schools are open to all families

As tuition-free public schools of choice, charter schools:

  • Do not have selective admissions policies
  • Accept all students, including English learners, students with disabilities and students of color - regardless of previous academic performance
  • Use a process to randomly select students, often times a lottery system, if there are more interested students than available seats.






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Truth #3: Charter schools serve all students

Charter schools do not have special entrance or admissions requirements. They accept all students, including English learners, students with special needs and students of color. California's charter schools are committed to serving as a student body that reflects their local communities.

California Student Enrollment 2015-2016
Student Demographic Charter Public School Percent of Enrollment Traditional District School Percent of Enrollment
African American 8% 6%
Latino 50% 54%
Asian 5% 9%
White 29% 24%
Other 8% 7%
English Learner 17% 24%
Free or Reduced Lunch 57% 59%
Students with Disabilities* 10% 11%

*Reported number is percent of test-takers on 2016 CAASPP and may not necessarily reflect actual enrollment (Source: California Department of Education)

Across the state, English Language students, African American students and Latino students are enrolled in charter schools that are more likely than traditional schools to be among the top 10% of highest performing schools in the state. These high-performing charter schools serve:

  • 20% more English Language Learners,
  • 19% more African American Students, and
  • 17% more Latino students than do traditional schools.
  • See Figure 34 on page 55 of the 2014 Portrait of the Movement report.

Charter schools are also committed to serving students with exceptional needs. And because they are designed to have more flexibility than traditional public schools, charter schools are uniquely able to provide innovative, high-quality educational services to students with unique learning needs. Learn more.

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Truth #4: Charter schools get results

Every year the number of high-performing charter schools in California grows. And, on average, charter school students are learning more in a school year than their peers at traditional schools.

A national study recently released by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that students in urban charter schools gain more knowledge than students in urban traditional schools.

  • 40 extra days of learning in math
  • 28 extra days of learning in reading

The results are especially impressive in Los Angeles. CREDO found that L.A. charter students gain:

  • 79 extra days of learning in math
  • 50 extra days of learning in reading

By the time they graduate from high school, many charter school students are literally years ahead. According to 2014 reports by CCSA:

  • 79% of Los Angeles charter high school students graduated compared to only 66% of students at traditional schools.
  • Los Angeles charter high school students completed all college preparatory coursework 4 times more often then their peers at traditional Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools.
  • 68% of Oakland charter school students graduate versus only 53% of traditional school students.
  • Oakland charter schools graduate twice as many college-ready grads than traditional Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools.

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Truth #5: Charter schools are accountable

An advantage of charter public schools is that they are granted more flexibility in their approach to education, leading to higher student learning. In exchange for this flexibility, charter schools must meet high standards of accountability.

In addition to being required to meet state and federal education standards, they must also meet high student achievement goals and rigorous academic, financial and managerial standards.

Charter public schools are held accountable to:

  • Their authorizer. Charter schools must be renewed at least every five years by their authorizer to ensure they have good academic results, and that they are operating in a fiscally and operationally responsible manner. Charter school that neglect their responsibilities, will have to make major changes to remain open.
  • The families they serve. Families make the choice to enroll their children in charter schools, and families can remove them if they are dissatisfied with the school.

Furthermore, CCSA advocates for rigorous academic accountability so that chronically underperforming charter schools are closed and higher performing charter schools can help even greater numbers of students achieve academic success.

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