During our recent educator job fair, I was amazed at the number of candidates who were discarding phenomenal opportunities because of their lack of research. When asked if they had talked to the charter schools, the most common response I received was “what is a charter school?” Here is my attempt to define public, parochial, charter and magnet schools. Let’s start with the easy one first.
Public schools: a tuition free school in the United States supported by taxes, controlled by a school board and run by certified teachers and administrators. Students attend the school designated in established school district zone.
Parochial schools: school supported by a religious body emphasizing a religious curriculum along with a secular curriculum very similar to that of public schools. Students pay tuition to attend and teachers may or may not be certified.
Magnet schools: public elementary or secondary schools separate from traditional public schools that offer specialized academic focuses or themes, known as magnet programs. Some magnet schools are established by school districts and draw only from the district, while others are set up by state government and may draw from multiple districts. Magnet schools are typically established in urban school districts with large student enrollments (over 10,000). School districts establish admission processes which may include an examination, interview and/or audition and may use a lottery system or rely upon a first-come, first served system to determine which students will be admitted. Demand is usually greater than seats in the classroom. Magnet schools are financed using tax dollars and federal funding under the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) is also available. Schools are staffed by certified teachers and administrators.
Charter schools: nonsectarian tax-supported public schools of choice that operates with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The “charter” establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor - usually a state or local school board - to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. These state-legislated schools are legally independent, innovative, outcome-based, public schools. The goal is to improve active student competence and knowledge in diverse subjects rather than to merely record attendance and effort at learning. Schools must still meet state testing and report card mechanisms. Charter schools are intended to be labs of educational experimentation in the areas of innovation and development of new teaching and learning strategies and approaches that can be imported into other traditional public schools. Schools are staffed by certified teachers and administrators.
The key difference between charter and magnet schools is that magnet schools require an admissions examination or evidence of special skills before students can be considered for admission to the school. Charter schools require no admissions test to attend.
Consider these other teaching employment options; there are opportunities outside the traditional public school classroom.
Northern Illinois University
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