Choose your charter school wisely

Charter school kids
There is so much to choose from when it comes to charter schools — make sure you start with some good research. / Colourbox

Transferring your child to a charter school can be a harrowing experience before his or her new classes even start. But a little research will light the way. Every charter school is different, which of course is the point, and because they are all independent, you won’t find any kind of guide grouping them by focus or discipline. So we’ve collected a few resources to help you start your research.

What to look for
Once you’ve made a list of schools whose mission statements and educational focuses feel appropriate for your student, nothing beats showing up in person. “Parents should conduct visits, ask questions,” explains Deirdre Darragh, of the School District of Philadelphia. Ask teachers if they’ve been happy there. Request information regarding the schools’ performance numbers.
Perhaps most importantly, investigate how seasoned the teachers are. A 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress study of charter school performance discovered that students whose teachers had five years or more of experience performed significantly better than those with inexperienced teachers, regardless of the school. It also determined that charter schools are twice as likely to employ inexperienced teachers as traditional public schools.

Getting in
By law, any applicant in a charter school’s district may attend. Since the best schools typically have more applicants than spots, they accept students via lottery. But there are some loopholes — for example, siblings of current students frequently receive priority — so ask each school about the process. Also, when it comes to the application process, it’s important to know your rights. There are examples of less scrupulous schools requiring essays or testing, or volunteer time from parents — none of which is legal — in an effort to select better-performing students and improve the school’s chances of reaching it’s charter-demanded performance numbers.

Show up
Attend board meetings. Although each school is categorized as a corporation, with its own board of trustees, it is still a public institution, and is required by law to make its board meetings open to the public.

According to Darragh, the single best thing you can do is, “Start early. Provide ample time for research and inquiry. Given that every charter school has its own deadline, it is crucial that families are aware of the expectations for application submission and compile a timeline for each application.”

Resources:
• The School District of Philadelphia publishes a directory of every single city charter school, including for each an address, contact name and information, and the grade levels offered.

http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/c/charter_schools/charter-school-directory

• On the Charter Schools page of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s website, a performance report is available for the year 2011, listing each school’s performance numbers in math and reading.
www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/charter_schools

• The Center for Education Reform’s website will pull listings for all charter schools in the state, providing addresses and telephone numbers, as well as the schools’ academic focuses, years they opened, number of students enrolled and grade levels offered.
www.edreform.com/in-the-states/know-your-choices/find-a-charter-school/

• The website of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook offers full profiles of every charter high school in the city, even including student racial demographics, any accreditations or awards and how long the waiting list is.
thenotebook.org/schoolprofiles



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Local

De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.

National

PHOTO: New Zealand Heral uses wrong image to…

The New Zealand Herald made a terrible mistake of using the wrong image to illustrate the tragic death of Staff Sergeant Guy Boyland – a New Zealand-born Israeli soldier who…

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.