Below are common questions asked by parents when considering a charter school. Click on a question to expose its answer. If you have a particular question and do not see it listed here please contact us.
Charter schools are innovative public schools that offer programs tailored to educational excellence and/or local community needs. They are given some flexibility in design but held to high levels of accountability for student results. If they fail to meet accountability standards, they may be closed by their chartering authorizer.
Since the first public charter school opened in St. Paul MN in 1992, more than 4,500 charter schools serve 1.3 million students in 40 states and the District of Columbia.
The first 11 charter schools opened in Indiana in 2002. Since then, the number of schools has grown to 49, serving 15,581 students.1 Charter school enrollment is increasing by an average of 2,300 students per year with a growth rate of nearly 175 percent.2
Demand is high, with more than 1,000 students sitting on waiting lists for seats in Indianapolis charter schools.2 In fact, the waiting list of a single school in Gary – the Thea Bowman Leadership Academy -- exceeds 1,000 students.
Charter schools in Indiana serve a higher percentage of non-white children and students living in poverty than both the state average and the districts in which the charter schools are located. Seventy percent (70%) of Indiana charter school students are members of an ethnic minority. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Indiana charter school students receive free or reduced lunch services, compared to 39% of students statewide and 49% of students attending the traditional school districts in which the charter school is located.2
Charter schools view parents as partners in education and experience a high level of parental involvement. This connection may be part of the reason that nearly six out of seven parents – over 85% – report being "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their child's public charter school. 2
Yes, according to a recent Indiana University study that found that Indiana residents support the creation of new charter schools by a 2-1 margin (54% support; 26% oppose). The greatest support for new charters comes from non-white citizens (60% support more) and individuals making less than $35,000/yr. (57%).4
On average, students enrolling in charter schools are well behind their traditional school peers in terms of ISTEP pass rate. (36% for entering charter school students versus 52% for students in local traditional public schools).3
Charter schools are required by their authorizers to take the NWEA test which tracks individual student growth. When initial academic ability is controlled for, Indiana charter school students evidence "greater academic growth" than their traditional public school counterparts in Reading (charter school students experienced 22% more growth), Math (charter school students experienced 18% more growth), and Language Usage (charter school students experienced 25% more growth).3
Further, charter high schools are having strong results. Among the students that graduated from Mayor-sponsored charter high schools in 2008, 94% are currently enrolled in 2- or 4-year colleges or universities.5 The Signature School in Evansville has been named one of the Top 100 high schools in the nation by US News and World Report – two consecutive years. In fact, charter high schools – which are only 5% of all high schools in the nation – comprised 18% of this year's Top 100 list.
The average expenditure per student in 2006–07 (most recent year available): $9,136 for charters and $10,978 for traditional public schools.3 Further, charter schools receive no funding for facilities or transportation. Facilities, and transportation, if a charter provides, comes from the per-pupil allocation.
A University of Indianapolis study determined the cost to achieve a standard unit of growth in learning across charter schools and traditional public schools. The study determined that the cost per unit of growth for students in Indiana charter schools is $1,311, while the cost per unit of growth for students in traditional public schools is $2,028.3
When viewed in the context of a school's location, the cost per unit of growth is $1,372 for urban charters, $1,384 for suburban charters, and $1,314 for rural charters, compared to $4,064 for urban traditional publics, $1,470 for suburban traditional publics, and $1,282 for rural traditional publics.3