Charter schools offer New Jersey educators and parents an opportunity to partner together to create innovative schools that best meet the needs of students.

Charter schools are independent public schools that don’t have entrance exams nor do they charge tuition. Like most public schools, they are open to any child living within a certain district, including children with special needs. All teachers must comply with state certification laws, just as in traditional public schools.

Charter schools were created in part to give educators and parents freedom to innovate and develop successful teaching models to increase student learning. Because a charter school is not managed by the local school district, it is free to design the environment it believes will best serve students’ needs.

A charter school is free to have a longer school day or year, for instance, or it can emphasize the arts or a socially-conscious mission, or it can conceive of any number of other creative vehicles or themes to promote student engagement and learning.

Charters are granted only after a rigorous application process through the New Jersey Department of Education. Many charters have been started by groups of parents and teachers who want to offer a new idea and a new option to a community for how a school can work.

With this autonomy, however, comes increased accountability. Charter schools that are not living up to their mission, are not producing great academic results for kids, or are not managing their budgets adequately can be shut down by the state education department. Charter schools must prove themselves every single year, and must re-apply for renewal every five years.

What’s more, parents vote with their feet: a charter school that doesn’t fill its seats because of poor performance cannot survive.

Across the country and in New Jersey, high-quality charter schools are making a difference. The schools are associated with higher math and English proficiency rates as well as greater chances for a high school diploma. Many high-performing charter schools have proven that no matter the race or socio-economic status of a student, all kids can and do achieve academically.