Charter School vs. Public School: Understanding the Basics

Charter School vs. Public School: Understanding the Basics

If you're a parent or guardian, you're likely looking for the best possible option for your child's education. You want them to reach their
full academic potential. Looking at public school, you may have concerns about a lack of available resources to help your child succeed. If you're considering private school, you might experience financial or academic barriers to entry. Enter: the charter school.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at this revolutionary type of educational institution, and the advantages and differences between a charter school vs. public school.  As you consider those differences, think about the advantages offered by New Dawn Charter High School.  This Brooklyn, NY, charter school
is dedicated to providing over-aged and under-credited students 15 - 21 years of age, including English-language learners and those with special needs, the opportunity to return to school and obtain a high school diploma through a rigorous NYSED standards-based education program.

One of the characteristics of charter schools that you’ll learn about in this article is their ability to form a strong and distinct school culture. At New Dawn Charter High School, the culture centers on Respect,Responsibility, and Resilience.

Distinguishing Between Charter Schools and Public Schools
A charter school is a publicly funded school that operates independently under a specific charter or contract, often with more flexibility in its curriculum, staffing, and operations than traditional public schools. Unlike regular public schools, which must follow district-wide regulations, charter schools have more autonomy in exchange for meeting certain performance goals outlined in their charter. However, both are funded by tax dollars and are tuition-free for students. Charter schools in the United States began in the early 1990s, with the first one opening in Minnesota in 1992 as a response to calls for educational reform and more school choices for parents. Since then, the number of charter schools has grown significantly, with thousands now operating in 45 states and the District of Columbia. This growth reflects a trend towards increased school choice and more parents searching for innovative educational models.

Comparing Academic Performance: Charter School vs Public School
What is the best way to gauge student performance when it comes to academics? Test scores are a small fraction of the full picture of what makes a
well-educated, well-rounded, healthy student. However, there are some promising numbers coming from CREDO's 2023 National Charter School Study III, evaluating the academic progress of students enrolled in charter schools in the United States. Here are some of the most significant educational statistics and findings on charter school performance:

  • Looking at year-to-year academic progress from 2015 to 2019, in both reading and math, charter schools provide students with stronger learning compared with the learning in the traditional public schools that are otherwise available to them.

  • Regarding special populations of students, they found that charter school students in poverty and those who are English-language learners had stronger growth than their peers in traditional public schools.

  • Charter schools and networks improve over time, as do the systems and regulatory groups that manage them.

The Advantages of Charter Schools
Charter schools provide a unique opportunity for students who may be struggling at traditional school, whether public or private. New Dawn Charter School is no exception, providing:

With greater autonomy, charter schools can try out novel teaching methods, cutting-edge programs, curricula, and school structures that might be more challenging to implement in traditional public schools.

Charter schools can tailor their programs to meet the unique needs of their student populations. This can include alternative schedules, teaching styles, or thematic focuses (such as arts, STEM, language immersion). They can also create specialized environments that cater to the educational outcomes of specific groups, such as gifted students, at-risk youth, or those who need special education.

Parental choice.
They provide families with additional choices in public education, allowing them to select schools that might better fit their children's needs or learning styles.

Smaller class sizes.
Some charter schools prioritize smaller class sizes to foster individualized attention and teacher-student relationships.

Social emotional support.
When serving populations who are traditionally underprivileged, many schools are able to provide more
diverse resources
when it comes to the specific emotional and social needs of charter students.

Organization of Charter School vs. Public School

Both types of schools provide free education from public funds, but let's review some of the structural differences between the two.

Charter schools.  Charter school funding is public and based on enrollment, but often with flexibility in how they allocate funds.

Public schools. Publicly funded through local, state, and federal sources based on a combination of factors, including enrollment and property taxes.


Charter schools. Typically have an open admission policy but may use a lottery system if demand exceeds available spots.

Public schools.  Traditional public school enrollment is based on geographic zones or school district boundaries.

Charter schools.  Have more flexibility to design and implement unique curricula, which may include specialized themes, learning programs, or teaching methods.
Public schools. Follow state or district-mandated curricula, with less flexibility in instructional approaches.

Accountability.  Because they operate under a specific charter, these schools often face higher levels of accountability. If they don't meet their performance goals, they risk non-renewal or closure.

School culture.
The flexibility can allow charter schools to establish strong and distinct school cultures, emphasizing values, behavior, or community involvement in a way that diff ers from local public schools.

Diverse teaching talent.
Charter schools might draw in educators who are looking for non-traditional teaching environments or who align with a school's particular mission or approach.

Increased parent and community involvement.
Some charter schools heavily emphasize and foster parental and community involvement, leading to stronger community ties and support systems.

Charter schools.  May have more flexibility in hiring and may not require state certification. They often operate outside of traditional union contracts.
Public schools.  Most public schools require state-certified teachers and often have union contracts dictating hiring, firing, and working conditions.

Facility ownership

Charter schools.  May not own their facilities and might operate in rented spaces or shared public school buildings.
Public schools. Typically own their buildings, which are funded and maintained through public means.

Duration and oversight

Charter schools.  Operate for a fixed term (usually 3-5 years) and must be renewed based on school performance metrics. Oversight typically comes from a charter-granting agency.
Public schools.  Do not operate on fixed-term contracts and have continuous operation unless closed for other reasons. School system oversight comes from the district school boards and state education agency.

Parents' Perspective: Making the Choice Between A Charter School Vs. Public School

Parents deserve the ability to pursue the best possible educational outcome for their kids, and they're the ones who know what their child needs. Charter schools are reinventing public education in hopes of catering to these diverse needs. New Dawn Charter School is a New York City Transfer School designed and dedicated to helping students who have either dropped out or are in school truants—those who will most likely not graduate with their four-year 9th grade peers.

If you're interested in enrolling your high school student in New Dawn Charter High School, find out here whether they're eligible for enrollment and get your application started today!