When I learned that two candidates for the Collier County School Board are closely affiliated with the county’s newest charter school, the Mason Classical Academy, I wanted to know more – both about charter schools in general, and this school in particular.
- Charter School students don’t have to take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test – “Pants on Fire”
- Local school districts get no say – “Mostly True” (once a charter school is up and running)
- Charter schools can hire any teacher they want – “Mostly False” (charter schools must hire state-certified teachers)
- Charter schools only have to accept the best and brightest – “Half True”
- Nothing happens to bad charter schools – “Mostly False”
What are charter schools? Who attends them? How are they funded? How are they regulated and held accountable? Are they a threat to public education? And importantly – what is the mission of the Mason Classical Academy and how do I feel about the possibility of having people affiliated with that school on the School Board?
Like traditional public schools, charter schools are free, and they can’t discriminate against students because of their race, gender, or disability. However, parents must usually submit a separate application to enroll a child in a charter school, and like private schools, spaces are often limited. Charter schools are independently run, and some are operated by for-profit private companies.
However, charter schools are still funded by government coffers and accountable to the government body — be it state, county, or district — that provides the charter. (Many successful charters do substantial additional fundraising as well.) If a school is mismanaged or test scores are poor, a charter school can be shut down.
Charter schools are unique public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement….
Charter schools were created to help improve our nation’s public school system and offer parents another public school option to better meet their child’s specific needs. The core of the charter school model is the belief that public schools should be held accountable for student learning. In exchange for this accountability, school leaders should be given freedom to do whatever it takes to help students achieve and should share what works with the broader public school system so that all students benefit….
Minnesota’s legislature passed the first charter law in 1991, and the first charter school opened in 1992.
- Gulf Coast Charter Academy South (grades K-6)
- Immokalee Community School (grades K-6)
- Marco Island Academy (grades 9-12)
- Marco Island Charter Middle School (grades (6-8)
- Mason Classical Academy (grades K-6)
- A charter school must be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and operations.
- A charter school must ensure that reading is a primary focus of the curriculum and that resources are provided to identify and provide specialized instruction for students who are reading below grade level.
- The curriculum and instructional strategies for reading must be consistent with the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and grounded in scientifically based reading research.
- Students in charter schools shall, at a minimum, participate in the statewide assessment program created under section 1008.22 [currently the FCAT until replaced by common core assessments, end-of course (EOC) assessments, and common core assessments in English Language Arts and mathematics] and the state-wide school grading system. In secondary charter schools, students shall satisfy the state requirements for graduation.
- Charter schools are subject to the same accountability requirements as other public schools.
- Charter school employees shall have the option to bargain collectively.
- Teachers employed by or under contract to a charter school shall be certified.
- A charter school shall organize as, or be operated by, a nonprofit organization.
As noted above, a charter school can be shut down for failure to perform. Under Florida law:
The sponsor shall make student academic achievement for all students the most important factor when determining whether to renew or terminate the charter. The sponsor may also choose not to renew or may terminate the charter for any of the following grounds:
- Failure to participate in the state’s education accountability system or failure to meet the requirements for student performance stated in the charter.
- Failure to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management.
- Violation of law.
- Other good cause shown.
The District School Board of Collier County is the sponsor of the county’s current five charter schools.