Putting Education Reform To The Test

Schools You Think Are Charters… But Aren’t

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The sign says academy, but is it a charter school?

There are a lot of Florida schools that look and function like charters, but really aren’t.

And when we embarked on this series, we couldn’t always tell the difference between one public school with a focus on science and another public school with a focus on science. But it turns out there can be quite a bit distinguishing the two.

To help ease confusion, we’ve created a pop quiz for you.

1. A public school with a theme or academic focus is a… (Choose all that apply):

A. Charter school
B. Private school
C. An Academy
D. Magnet school

Answer: A, C, and D

Charter schools usually have a theme or an academic focus, like science and technology or arts. And magnet schools also usually have a theme or academic focus. And they’re both public schools. But a magnet school is not a charter school.

Magnet schools are funded by local districts and are under the jurisdiction of the school district. The district hires the teachers and “the magnet theme supports and enhances the basic academic district curriculum,” said Dr. Robert Brooks, Executive Director of Magnet Schools of America.

A charter school is also funded by local districts but it has more autonomy from the school district.

So what’s the biggest difference between a magnet and a charter?

Magnet schools can have admissions criteria and an application process where students are selected. Charter schools on the other hand, must have open enrollment.

What’s in a name?

2. A school called an “Academy” is always a charter school

A. True
B. False

Answer: False

Charter schools are known for having names like the Academy of Environmental Science and Florida Intercultural Academy. Perhaps the name is meant to distinguish the charters from their traditional district school counterparts, who knows? But don’t let the word “academy” fool you.

Private schools, which can charge tuition when charter schools cannot, are also known to have the word “academy” in their school name.

Academy High School is a private high school and online school in South Florida. The private school is operated independently from the school district, and does not need to follow state standards or district curriculum the way magnet, charter and traditional district schools are required to.

Its less common for traditional district schools to be called an “academy,” but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In this case, the traditional district school would not be tied to a theme like charters and magnets.

3. If a school requires a school uniform, it is a ______________.

A. Traditional district school
B. Private school
C. Charter school
D. Magnet school
E. All of the above

Answer: All of the above

Education leaders across the country argue that school uniforms help reduce discipline problems in schools. Whether that’s true or not, a lot of schools from public to private are moving toward adopting the mandatory school uniform policy.

In traditional district schools, the school policy commonly applies to elementary and middle schools. High schools with a mandatory uniform policy tend to be charter, magnet or private schools.

“Every Florida charter school I know of has a uniform policy,” said Lynn Norman-Teck, with the Florida Consortium of Public Charters. They may not be required to adopt the policy, but “most charters do it,” she said.

Some schools in Polk County, Osceola County, Lake County, Orange County and Seminole County require or encourage a school uniform.

4. Are single-gender public schools charter or magnet schools?

Answer: Both

Trick question. Any school, be it a charter, magnet, private or traditional district school, can become a single-sex institution.

Hillsborough County in Fla. has taken the lead with single-gender public schools, with 10 elementary and two middle single-sex schools, according to the Tampa Tribune. Some of these single-gender schools are charter schools, but not all.

Nationally, at least 506 public schools in the United States are offering single-sex educational opportunities for the 2011-2012 school year. About 390 of those offer single-sex classrooms and maintain some co-ed activities like lunch or elective classes, according to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education.

Editors note: Originally, we reported a list of Florida counties with a mandatory school uniform policy. We should have written that the uniform policy is either mandated or encouraged.


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