Charter and Magnet Schools

Charter Schools, Magnet Schools and Community Schools Advantages and Disadvantages Education systems have evolved greatly since the days of the one room school house. There are nearly 46 million students enrolled in public schools, all with different talents, interests and needs. (Source: National Center for Educational Statistics). Today, students and their families are given more choices than ever to pursue academic excellence in facilities that best suit them as individuals.

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This paper will describe three different school systems and a few advantages and disadvantages of each. Charter Schools Charter schools began emerging in the early 1990’s. (Source: The Center for Educational Reform. 2007). These alternative public schools were created by teachers, community organizations and parents out of frustration for their neighborhood schools’ practices and bureaucracy. Those that were discouraged by low test scores, large class sizes and lack of influence over curriculum content envisioned a more autonomous, cutting edge environment.

The intent was to offer an environment that would challenge conventional public school practices by specializing in certain areas of education, such as the arts, music, science or technology, in smaller, more individualized settings. Since charter schools are indeed public schools, they receive tax dollars, although private funding must be obtained as well. These self-directed and self-governing schools must adhere to basic fundamental curriculum requirements set by the state; however they are free from the many rules and regulations that apply to public schools.

This freedom allows teachers an opportunity to design their own programs, creating the best learning environment for their students. Parents also have more of a say in how their children are being educated. Charter schools operate under the general guidelines that they will be accountable to uphold academic excellence. If they cannot meet the expectations set in place by the governing bodies, their funding will cease and the school will close. •The single best advantage of the charter school system is that parents and students have a vast array of educational options available to them.

With a variety of specializations, students can choose the schools that best fit their interests as well as their learning styles. And to ensure that there is a place for many different types of students, there is even charter schools specifically designed for high-risk as well as gifted children. •Proponents of charter schools agree that being independent of public bureaucracy allows them to provide curriculum in innovative, ground-breaking ways.

Teachers and administrators are allowed the freedom to experiment with their programs in ways that heavy regulation tends to restrict in public school settings. •Due to the high expectations and accountability to stakeholders, charter schools must perform at high levels to ensure their sites remain open. The advantage of this is twofold; students within these environments receive a high quality education, as evidence by studies showing charter school students performing at a slightly higher proficiency rate in math and reading, compared to their nearest public schools. Source: National Center for Education Statistics). And due to the competition that these results provide, neighboring schools are forced to improve their academic performance in order to attract and maintain student enrollment levels and keep state and federal funding. Though, some critics would disagree, stating that since the curriculum in charter schools can be vastly different to their neighboring public schools, it’s difficult to compare results. A disadvantage to the charter school system is that relies on outside funding. There is always an underlying fear that if the school falls short of its lofty goals or outside funding is withdrawn, that the school will close, leaving students and their families with very little recourse. •Another disadvantage to this autonomous environment is that it does not necessarily require all teachers to be state certified or highly qualified.

Although the majority of educators are enthusiastic and enjoy teaching in innovative ways, they may not be adequately equipped (outside of a specially designed charter school), to assist those students with disabilities or students with language barriers or behavioral issues. Magnet Schools Magnet schools first emerged in the early 1970’s to as a way to desegregate neighborhood public schools. (Source: The Center for Educational Reform. 2007). These schools offer an opportunity to students in many surrounding communities to voluntarily attend facilities outside their zip codes.

State-of-the-art facilities and specialized programming attract students despite for some the long distance daily travel requirements. Magnet schools, like charter schools are recognized for their high academic standards and superior programming. And similar to charter schools, magnet schools generally focus in a specific area of education, such as art, science or music. Though, unlike a number of charter schools that rely on lottery system for enrolment, about one third of magnet schools require potential student candidates to undergo an extensive application and testing process.

Also, magnet schools are a part of the public school system, so they must adhere to all federal, state and school board mandates. Though, they do not require extra funding from the private sector to survive. •Magnet schools also share the advantage of offering a choice to students and their families. And although magnet schools follow the same educational guidelines as traditional public schools, their distinct educational programs offer the possibility of a very unique academic experience. Magnet schools tend to be more diverse than their traditional counterparts. Supporters agree that this eclectic mix provides an opportunity for students to work alongside and discover more about their culturally diverse peers than they perhaps would in their neighborhood schools. It also gives the opportunity for some students in lower economic districts to achieve a higher level of educational achievement then perhaps that would have in their neighborhood public school. Opponents of magnet schools say that one of the disadvantages of this system is that their specialized programs and rigorous academic curriculum often attracts gifted and talented students away from local public schools. In addition, the selective admissions process limits the enrollment of students with disabilities, behavioral issues and ESL learners. And some argue that this type of enlistment process often dissuades those students who could benefit from this type of learning environment the most. Studies have revealed that although magnet schools are more diverse, low-income students are still underrepresented. Critics also question if the extra funding awarded to the magnet schools would be better put to use rebuilding and better equipping local public schools to enhance their student’s learning experiences. Community Schools Once thought as learning centers for the wealthy and privileged, community public schools are now federal, state and locally funded facilities that by law, provide free appropriate education to all children, regardless of gender, race or ability.

Community public schools adhere to strict guidelines set forth by federal, state and local laws, including program development, and subject matter, as well as how their funding is spent. Traditional public schools offer general programming, including English, writing, reading, science, history, math and physical education. Many schools depending on state direction also include art and music programs. The subject matter is determined by the state and local school boards and student mastery is measured through standardized testing. One of the major advantages of the community public school system is that it is free for all students. Any child within a school’s district is welcome to attend. There are no lottery systems or rigorous admissions requirements. Due to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA), public schools must provide appropriate education to all children, including meeting the requirements of special needs students. Additional funding, specialized programs and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) ensure that all students are educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Another benefit of the public education system is that all teachers must be state certified. Many now are even specializing in areas such as literacy, ESL and special education to ensure they are able to properly assist all their students. •Since community public schools offer a wide variety of learning options for students, an advantage for those students not attending college is that they may be able to receive the career training they need to succeed once high school commences. Students attend public schools within their communities, allowing them to share their experiences with their neighbors and friends. Some schools are diverse centers, including all levels of income and race. While other schools are comprised of students with similar backgrounds and economic status. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these systems, Students in more diverse settings learn to work alongside their peers from different backgrounds, learn tolerance and discover new cultures and customs.

Classmates in less diverse environments are able to celebrate their shared customs and feel their way of life is understood and valued by their teachers and peers. •One of the major disadvantages of the public school system is that not all schools are the same. Schools in affluent communities receive more local funding, which allows them to provide newer sports equipment, smart boards and computers to enhance the learning environment. Teacher’s salaries also tend to be higher, allowing school boards to hire competitively.

Conversely, schools in low income areas tend to be underfunded, leaving little to no money to improve their actual facilities, purchase updated books or much needed technological supports. Since teacher’s salaries are apt to be lower, some might argue that there may be a high turnover rate and a lower quality of education in these areas. •Lastly, parents struggle with the lack of freedom they have in choosing what their children will study. Students with special talents or interests feel that the one-size-fits-all curriculum does not allow for much expression and individualism.

As well, many teachers are frustrated that the over emphasis on state testing requires them to spend much of their time preparing kids for testing and less time being creative and innovative. In conclusion, not all education systems are perfect. Each has its own unique qualities and areas for improvement. Students and their families should carefully consider each option to determine which school would provide the best educational environment to meet and exceed their needs.


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