What IS a charter school anyway? I get asked this question all the time, even by friends and family. My first answer is always that charter schools are public schools created by states to serve the public. Like other public schools, charter schools are funded using public dollars based on the number of children enrolled. That’s why they are free.
The way I explain how charter schools are different is that while they are tuition-free public schools, they are independently run and more autonomous in exchange for being held accountable for student achievement. Also, anyone who lives in the state of California may apply to a charter school. It’s not just open to families who live in a school’s boundaries.
How are charter schools held accountable for achievement? Charter schools have to go up for renewal every few years. That means if their authorizer determines they are not doing well by their students, they can vote to close the school. Authorizers supervise and hold charter schools accountable. Our authorizer is the Los Angeles Unified School District. The Los Angeles Unified school board member for our district also represents our students and is responsible for making decisions that are in the best interest of all public school students, including CWC West Valley’s. The current school board member for our district is Scott Schmerelson.
Charter schools are required to teach the California Common Core State Standards, but our teachers have more flexibility over how to teach them. We also have more freedom on how to allocate our resources. In the simplest of terms, being an independent charter school means that we have more choice and decision-making power over our budget, staffing, our teaching philosophy and curriculum.
Inevitably, the next question that follows is, “are your teachers credentialed?”
YES, our teachers are fully credentialed (it’s the law!). Our Founding Teaching staff have an average of 10 years of teaching experience and are fully credentialed, which is a requirement for teachers who deliver core content. They are a diverse group with extensive experience across various elements of our model and a team that is deeply committed to our core values.
Enrollment in charter schools has grown by 62 percent, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. In 43 states and DC, nearly 2.9 million students now attend charter schools— representing more than 6 percent of all public school students nationwide.
And charter schools are producing strong student results: 15 out of 16 recent studies show charter school students are outperforming their traditional school peers and showing the strongest improvement levels for underserved student populations. We are proud that our own school model has a demonstrated track record of academic success. Charters across the nation also distinguished themselves during the campus closures due to the pandemic by serving their students well. Here’s a recent article about how charters pivoted quickly and provided more stable and productive learning environments for their students.