In a recent interview on “Pure Politics,” Rep. Brad Montell, R–Shelbyville, said “most legislators on both sides of the aisle, frankly, don’t know enough about charter schools.”
A bill sponsored by Montell that would allow charter schools in Kentucky was heard in the House Education Committee in February of this year. Montell requested that no vote be taken on the bill until legislators better understand what charter schools are and how they operate.
The bill defines a charter school as, “a nonsectarian, nonreligious, tuition-free public school that operates in accordance with the charter.”
The charter is a contractual agreement which the school makes with the charter authorizer that holds the school and its faculty accountable for attaining a certain level of student achievement results.
Exactly what are the standards that a charter school is held to? How do they measure the performance of students? The specific details will vary from school to school, based on the unique situation in a particular school district. The bill does, however, offer general guidelines.
Student achievement is measured by:
- Academic proficiency
- Academic growth
- Achievement gaps
- Recurring enrollment
- College or career readiness by grade 12
In exchange for being held accountable to high standards, charter schools are given freedom from many of the most onerous regulations that apply to traditional public schools. This allows teachers to have a lot of flexibility in their teaching methods and frees them from the unnecessary bureaucracy encountered in the public school system.
Some regulations do still apply to charter schools. Common-sense rules like compulsory student attendance, background checks on teachers and mandatory participation in state assessments of student performance are followed.
There are a lot of misleading statements being made about charter schools. In the next few blog posts, we will address some of these myths about – and also some criticisms of – charters. But for the time being, we’ve at least solved one of the greatest mysteries of this issue: the mystery of exactly what a charter school is.