CHOICES FOR PARENTS
Questions and Answers on No Child Left Behind...Charter Schools

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  1. What are charter schools and why are they named as a school-choice option under No Child Left Behind?
  2. Do all states have charter schools?
  3. How are charter schools held accountable under No Child Left Behind?
  4. How can parents find out more about charter schools?

1. What are charter schools and why are they named as a school-choice option under No Child Left Behind?

Charter schools are independent public schools designed and operated by parents, educators, community leaders, education entrepreneurs and others. They operate with a contract, or charter, from a public agency, such as a local or state education agency, an institution of higher education or a municipality. They must meet standards set forth in their charters for students and for the school as a whole, or else the chartering agency can close the school.

No Child Left Behind specifically names public charter schools as a school-choice option for children in schools that are identified for improvement, corrective action or restructuring, because they offer a viable alternative to public schools in the traditional system. In fact, the development of charter schools began in the 1990s as a means of providing expanded educational options for parents within the public school system. Today there are some 2,700 U.S. charter schools serving some 700,000 students nationwide.

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2. Do all states have charter schools?

No. Currently only 39 states have public charter schools laws that provide this option for students. While some states have laws that strongly promote charter school growth, others do not. As a result, the situation varies among states, with thriving charter schools in some and very little or no charter-school activity in others. Parents may contact their local school district or state department of education to determine the availability of charter schools or to find out if there is a mechanism for starting such a school in their area.

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3. How are charter schools held accountable under No Child Left Behind?

Although charter schools operate outside the traditional system, they are still accountable. The accountability provisions and other requirements of No Child Left Behind must be applied to charter schools in accordance with the states' charter school laws. State-authorized chartering agencies, as established by the individual state laws, are responsible for ensuring that charter schools meet the accountability and testing provisions of No Child Left Behind. In March 2003, the Department issued guidance on the impact of the new Title I requirements on charter schools, including details on accountability requirements (see Appendix A: Where to Go for More Information).

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4. How can parents find out more about charter schools?

Parents interested in charter schools should contact their school district office or state education agency. More information is available through the Department's Web site given in Appendix A: Where to Go for More Information.

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Last Modified: 11/17/2004