April 06, 2010

Charter Schools

I'm wondering whether any of you have experience with charter schools or even just have opinions about them. There is a charter school very close to our house. The parents I have spoken with rave about it. A few educators I have spoken with aren't sold on it, but haven't really given me specifics. I'm somewhat drawn to it because it offers all day kindergarten. I'm considering sending my daughters there for kindergarten and then switching them to our neighborhood elementary school after that.
I don't know much about charter schools. As a news reporter, I remember covering the opening of a charter school. The principal seemed almost like a salesman. Rather than simply speaking about what his school had to offer, I felt like he was trying to sell me something. Still, the students seemed excited to be there, and that's not a bad thing.
By the time my daughters enter kindergarten, they will have three years of preschool under their belt. Full day kindergarten is something I think they could definitely handle. But kindergarten is an important step in a child's education. What should I be looking for in the curriculum? What questions should I ask if I meet with the principal?
The school also has a uniform policy. At first I balked... more money out of my pocket? But then I realized I might actually save money: the girls can all share clothes and the morning routine would be pretty easy.
Still, all day kindergarten and uniforms can't be the sole factors in my decision. So, what do you know/think about charter schools? What kinds of questions would you ask a kindergarten teacher or the principal to make sure your child will receive a first rate education?


MaryAnne said...

I definitely think it's worth looking into. The school I got my Master's in Education had a connected charter school that seemed very impressive, although I only visited a handful of times (I did my student teaching at a regular public school). My cousins went to a charter school that started out really well, but now a few years in they are having serious issues with school debt and shady hiring/firing.

Some questions I would ask if I were visiting a charter school:
- How do they hire teachers and administrators?
- What, if any, outside funding do they accept?
- What curriculum do they use?
- Why do their teachers choose to teach at their school instead of at the local public school?

I would also ask to observe a day of kindergarten, and see if I could talk to the kindergarten teachers. A good charter school is fantastic; a bad one can be a nightmare.

Quadmama said...

I definitely want to sit in on one of the kindergarten classes. You gave me some great questions, thanks!

Zookeeper said...

Some questions I would ask...

-What curriculum do they use and what are the expectations for your children? What's the plan if one of your children falls short or if it's not enough?

-Do they give the kids homework and what does that look like?

-Discipline-how do they handle any transgressions? You don't want to be surprised.

-What's their daily routine? You want to see how the academic part of the day is broken up with snack, recess, lunch, and any special activities like music, art, P.E. etc.

As a former teacher, these are the types of questions I got from parents and that I think are good ones. Hope this helps.

Quadmama said...


reanbean said...

I worked in the public schools for 8 years before my twins were born, and I'm definitely very pro public education. But I think if you're interested in the charter school, you should check it out. I think, just like public schools, there are some that do very, very well for their students and some that could do a lot better. You've been given some great questions to ask, and if you really want full day kindergarten, than it seems worth checking it out. Good luck!

Roman and Tiffany said...

The public school that Ryla is zoned for offers a full-day Kindergarten program (Kindergarten Enrichment)that we will be putting Ryla in. I think that it costs a little bit per month but it may be something to look into.

Brooke said...

I'm a product of charter schools - and in our area, they were amazing. I'm so lucky to have had that experience and my former classmates are some of the most accomplished, amazing people I've ever met.

Becky said...

Our public schools have all day kindergarten. And I think you are right, with 3 years of pre school they will be ready for the challenge of all day kindergarten. Curriculum would be my biggest concern. I wouldn't want an extension of pre school, but I'd want them to start grasping some early reading skills, introducing common sight words (we called them popcorn words because they keep "popping up") so that they can start "reading" and early math and science....even if they don't know it. :) I think if you go and hang out for a day you will have a feeling of whether or not it will work out for your girls since YOU know them best. :)

Quadmama said...

All great suggestions, thank you! It's pretty stressful to figure out what to do, but I think if I do my homework I'll make a wise decision.

JennaPalmtree said...

I've always had some kind of prejudice against charter schools but never really knew why (did mom not like them?)....

Anyway, my outlook is changing because in DC charter schools are the only way to go and many of them are excellent. I think the key though, is to ask about their staffing policies. For some reason, it seems around here that many of the teachers in charter schools are straight out of college- not necessarily a bad thing, but worth finding out about.

PS- Uniforms are wonderful! Usually it's a polo shirt that can be worn over an undershirt. Have the girls take the polo shirt off as soon as they get home and you might be able to get 2 days wear out of it before doing laundry (assuming no spills) without anyone knowing!

Quadmama said...

The staffing is one of my major concerns. From what I can gather, the majority of the teachers are right out school (no, not a bad thing) and there's a lot of turnover. The uniforms are khaki and navy pants with a polo that has the school logo. I'm not concerned about the price of pants because I can find those cheap, but the shirts could be pricey.

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