Frequently Asked Questions
Charter schools are independently-managed public schools operated by approved nonprofit organizations. Just like traditional public schools, charter schools are funded by local, state, and federal Tax dollars based on scholar enrollment, but they have the freedom to be more innovative while being accountable for improved scholar achievement.
- Fostering New Strategies for scholar Success: Charter schools allow teachers the freedom to be more innovative in the classroom, using strategies that are new to Washington — but proven to improve scholar achievement. By giving teachers the ability to bring proven methods to help scholars learn, charter schools are developing effective new teaching models that can be replicated in traditional public schools. With the flexibility to modernize and develop successful new education practices, teachers improve learning and share results with the wider public school system for broader benefits.
- Increasing Achievement in Underserved Communities: Charter schools believe all scholars are capable of learning and succeeding, and provide an important public school option to scholars of the global majority or gentrifying communities. By creating an environment tailored to these scholars’ needs, charter schools have successfully demonstrated that underserved children can achieve at the same levels as their peers in more affluent communities. Additionally, charter schools bring programs to disadvantaged neighborhoods that serve the whole community, providing parents with education on parenting, nutrition and more.
Charter schools are free from many rules and regulations that apply to traditional public schools, so they have more flexibility to set curriculum and budgets, select teachers and staff, and offer more customized learning experiences for scholars. This means that teachers and principals have more flexibility at the school level to meet the needs of their scholars and help them succeed. It also means that parents have more options within the public school system to find the best learning environment for their children.
In exchange for this flexibility, charter schools are held more accountable for showing improved scholar achievement. Public charter schools must meet the same state and federal academic standards as traditional public schools, but they are subject to additional rigorous academic, financial, and managerial requirements as specified in their charter contract — and to ongoing monitoring to evaluate their success in improving scholar outcomes.
The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools cites the following results which show that charter schools are making a difference:
- 16 academic studies have been published on charter school performance since 2010, including four national studies and 12 regional studies from throughout the country. 15 of the 16 found that scholars in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. One study found mixed results. The most recent of those studies, by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University, found that charter schools do a better job than traditional schools at teaching low income scholars, minority scholars, and scholars who are still learning English.
- In 25 schools districts around the country, more than 20 percent of all scholars attend a public charter school. New Orleans has a higher percentage of children in charter schools than anywhere else in the country. scholars attending public charter schools in New Orleans learn an additional four months in reading and five months in math than their peers attending traditional public schools. Statewide, scholars attending public charter schools in Louisiana gained an additional 50 days of learning in reading and 65 days in math compared to their peers attending traditional public schools.
- Children who attend charter schools are more likely to graduate from high school than their traditional school peers.
- At one charter school in Arizona, BASIS, scholars scored higher on an international test called the PISA than scholars from anywhere in the world. At the Success Academy charter school in Harlem, every fourth grader passed the state’s science exam. In 2012, every high school senior at an Uncommon charter school took the SAT exam, achieving an average score that was 20 points above the College Board’s benchmark for college readiness.
- And charter schools continue to disproportionately top the lists of America’s best high schools inNewsweek, US News and World Report,and the Washington Post. In fact, more than a quarter of the best high schools on these lists are charter schools.
Charter schools are approved by and accountable to their authorizers. The word “authorizer” refers to the state entity or institution that has the legal right to issue charters to those who want to open public charter schools. An authorizer is also responsible for oversight of these schools.
The word “charter” is the same as a “contract.” A “charter” is granted to a new public charter school and covers the school’s mission, program, goals, scholars served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure scholar success. Washington’s charter school law requires strict oversight and accountability. Charter schools are subject to annual performance reviews as well as ongoing oversight by the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to measure their success in improving scholar outcomes.
Charter schools are funded based on scholar enrollment, just like traditional public schools. When a scholar transfers from a traditional public school to a public charter school, the funding associated with that scholar follows him or her to the public charter school. Public charter schools do not add any new costs to the state’s public education system. They simply move funding associated with a scholar from one public school to another based upon the decisions of families.
Charter schools offer all scholars a personalized and innovative learning opportunities designed to increase their academic success and ensure they are ready for college and their career pathways. At RVLA, we recognize that to support scholars academically, we also must serve the whole child. Through wraparound services and supports, our model leverages all parts of a scholar's experience to positively impact academics.
Research from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University shows that charter schools are particularly effective in benefiting low-income scholars, scholars from communities of color and English-language learners.
Washington state charter schools serve all scholars, including those with special needs. Charter schools also have more flexibility than traditional public schools, so they are uniquely situated to provide high-quality educational services to scholars with various learning needs.
Any scholar in Washington state can attend a charter school, and they do not have to compete for a spot at the school. A scholar’s academic or disciplinary record, or special education status, has no bearing on his or her acceptance. However, if more scholars want to attend a specific charter school than there are spaces available, enrollment is determined by a random lottery.
To enroll your son or daughter, please visit: Rainier Valley Leadership Academy Pursuant to Washington State law, if more scholars apply to a given grade than space is available, all scholars will be entered into a blind enrollment lottery to ensure fairness to all scholars and families. Any scholar not selected in the enrollment lottery will be placed on a waitlist.
By law, all Washington State residents are eligible to attend charter schools.
Yes. Charter schools, like all public schools, must follow Washington state and federal health, safety, civil rights, and anti-discrimination laws, as well as Washington state K-12 education statutes, including the Common Core State Standards.