Putting Education Reform To The Test

A StateImpact Florida Series: Do Charter Schools Work?

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Charter schools are championed by legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott, shown here in January visiting Florida International Academy in Opa Locka.

For 15 years Florida has conducted an experiment in public education.

The goal was to improve the entire education system by granting charter schools more leeway to innovate.

Welcome to StateImpact Florida’s Charter Schools 101 series examining the effect those schools have had on students, teachers, parents and communities — and what comes next.

One in every 17 Florida students attends a charter school and enrollment has tripled over the past decade.

Independently managed but publicly funded, charter schools are a key alternative for parents or students unhappy with their neighborhood district public school. More 154,000 students attended 459 charter schools during the past school year, according to Department of Education Statistics.

Charter schools often offer specialized curriculum, such as math, science or the arts. The schools are required to follow many state and federal regulations, but also have more flexibility to change staff or curriculum than district schools.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be producing a series of online and broadcast stories answering questions about Florida’s charter schools:

What’s the history and types of charter schools?

Who is a charter school student and how should parents choose a charter school?

What rules must charter schools abide by?

Who runs charter schools and how much money is involved?

How are charter schools performing?

Along the way we’ll introduce you to people such as Michele Gill, a University of Central Florida education professor, who helped found a charter school this year and what she has learned from the experience.

You’ll meet Jonathan Hage, CEO of one of the largest for-profit charter school companies. Hage helped write Florida’s first charter school law, and his company, Charter Schools USA, is now assisting Indiana with three low-performing schools taken over by the state.

You’ll learn what charter schools ask of students, parents and teachers and how that’s different from district schools.

You’ll see how charter schools market themselves to attract students and parents in a crowded market.

We’ve got our questions, but we’d like to hear yours as well. Add your story ideas and questions in the comments or shoot us an email over the next couple of weeks.


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StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
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