Charter schools are free, public schools, open to any student who applies. Charter schools were developed to allow teachers to be more involved in developing the curriculum at their school, and to try out innovate teaching methods. Charters also provide students with more choices within the public school system, particularly in areas with lower performing schools. In general, charter schools offer more variety in their approach to teaching and learning than district schools.
I should point out that there are two type of charter schools in Los Angeles, Independent Charters and Affiliated Charters.
Independent charters are, as their name implies, independent of the local school district, and able to choose what type of curriculum they use, how they spend their money, and which teachers they want to hire - and fire. Their students still have to take the state tests every year, and the school has to show that the students are meeting the state standards, just like at any other public school. Admission to an independent charter is by lottery.
Affiliated charters are actually still district (LAUSD) schools, subject to district control, budget cuts, staffing changes, and other district rules, but they do have some additional flexibility in their school budget and curriculum, just not to the extent that independent charters do. Admission to affiliated charters is by residential boundary (like all LAUSD schools) and then, if there is space remaining, the school will hold a lottery.
Sometimes parents want a different educational model, sometimes they want a school that is higher performing or has more parent involvement. There are many reasons why parents look for different schools for their children, and charters provide another option for parents without the cost burden of private school.
For more info on Charter schools see: ccsa.org. Deadlines for charter school applications are generally January - March.
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