As parents consider their options for the upcoming school year, many may be wondering how to best assess the different charter schools they visit.
“Because so much has changed [in recent years] and because all of these changes are happening at once, it can be hard to know what to look for,” says Scott Farber, the founder of A-List Education, a tutoring and test-prep educational services provider that works with schools and after-school programs across the East Coast.
“I think the point of charter schools is that it should be a place where you can experiment with new ideas … and come up with a better way of doing things,” he adds.
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Farber says parents who are considering charters should ask these questions during their visits.
How big are the classes? “Class size matters,” says Farber. “One of the misconceptions is that charter schools always have smaller classes. Ask what the faculty-to-student ratio will be.” Farber notes that some of the core classes might also be different at various charter schools, so it’s important to ask about requirements as well.
How do the teachers factor in? “Both my parents were teachers for decades,” says Farber . “There are lots of teachers that are drawn to charter schools because they are given the freedom to do different things. They also usually have a younger teaching staff, and that might be better in some ways, too.”
What kinds of activities are available? “I’d also ask, ‘What sort of [ extracurriculars ] do they have?’ A lot of students in charter schools attend school for longer,” both in terms of the length of the school day and the structure of the school year, Farber notes.
Ask for concrete data. “What kind of performance have they seen in the past?” he asks. “For high schools, it’s graduation rates and college acceptance rates. It’s very useful to ask for data on the younger grades’ performance, too.”
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.