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What is a Charter School?

What is a Charter School? 

Charter schools are public schools of choice. Students (along with their parents) choose to attend a charter school in place of their district-assigned school. Pennsylvania's charter school law, enacted in 1997, allows charter schools to engage in innovative educational programs that meet high performance standards. Charter schools generally offer teachers and students more authority to make decisions than most traditional public schools. Instead of being accountable for compliance with regulations, they are accountable for academic results and for upholding their charter.

Two words can help distinguish charter schools from traditional public schools: autonomy and flexibility. Charter schools are governed, not by a local board of education, but by an autonomous non-profit board of directors, and they receive flexibility from certain state and local rules and regulations in exchange for a higher level of accountability. Charter schools use this flexibility to implement innovative or unique programs, in order to provide educational options to parents and students that are not typically available in the traditional public schools.

A charter school must follow the state and federal standards, but they may have more flexibility in curriculum and other activities. Although they are actually public schools, they are, as mentioned above, not governed by the local district, and communicate directly with county or state offices of education. At its founding, the Roberto Clemente Charter School was sponsored by the Hispanic American Organization.