What is a charter school?
A charter school is an independent public school that is exempt from certain regulations over traditional public schools, thus allowing it greater freedom, flexibility and responsiveness when trying to meet the needs of its students. All charter schools operate under a charter, or contract, that outlines specific goals for the school, and are governed by a school board of volunteers.
Who can attend charter schools?
All students, including those with disabilities and limited English proficiency, residing in the boundaries of the Kansas City School District or St. Louis Public Schools district are eligible to attend charter schools. While Missouri law dictates that charter schools may be opened in unaccredited school districts outside of the city boundaries, there are currently no charter schools in the metropolitan area that operate outside of the city of St. Louis.
Individual charter schools may dictate in their charters that preference is given to residents in a limited geographical area around the school. Additionally, a charter school may also enroll students from outside the district through the metropolitan area desegregation program if outlined in its charter or the charter is eligible to receive transfer students from unaccredited school districts.
How are charter schools held accountable?
Missouri charter schools are still held to performance measures such as student achievement, attendance and graduation rates like other public schools in the state. They must participate in the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP), and like traditional public schools, are reviewed according to the standards of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) 5.
Additionally, charter schools have school-specific goals outlined in their charter agreement which their sponsors use to monitor progress. Goals are both academic and nonacademic and may relate to things like standardized test scores, attendance, graduation, and college acceptance rates. Failure of a charter school to meet its goals or comply with laws can result in interventions by the sponsor, a school being placed on probation, non-renewal of the charter at the end of its term, or closure at any point during the charter term.
What is a charter school sponsor?
All public charter schools must have a sponsor, or authorizer as it is called in some states, in order to open and continue operating. In Missouri sponsors are typically universities, but a sponsor could also be the school board of a local district or the Missouri Charter School Commission.
The role of a sponsor is to develop a thorough application process, agreeing to sponsor only prospective charter schools that demonstrate the highest potential for creating quality education options. When a sponsor has approved a charter applicant, the sponsor and school draw up a contract that outlines the expectations for each party, performance goals and interventions and consequences in the case of underperformance or noncompliance.
If a charter gets approved by the Missouri school board, the sponsor then monitors the charter school on an ongoing basis, using the school’s performance to inform decisions about expansion, replication, renewal, intervention or closure.
Charter sponsors also provide support to their schools. Sponsoring universities, for example, may draw on the expertise of their faculty to assist schools with anything from participating in annual site visits to providing professional development or assistance in designing and implementing programs for staff.
How do charter schools get closed down?
In Missouri, a charter is granted for a term of five years, which is renewable. At the end of each charter term, the sponsor has the responsibility of deciding whether or not to renew a school based on its performance and financial viability.
Additionally, a charter may revoked at any point during the charter term in the case of profound underperformance or violations of law or public trust in regards to safety or misuse of public funds.
Are teachers at charter schools certified?
Yes. However the state of Missouri waives certification requirements for up to 20% of a charter school’s teaching staff provided that they are otherwise well qualified. Teachers may be certified in another state or country or have an advanced degree in their subject along with teaching experience.
How are charter schools funded?
Like other public schools, charter schools receive the bulk of their funding from the state through their reported Average Daily Attendance. Smaller portions of funding come from local and federal sources.
Why does Lindenwood choose to sponsor Gateway Science Academy?
By sponsoring Gateway Science Academy, Lindenwood can be of service to the community by helping to provide quality education options in St. Louis. Lindenwood can use the resources, namely from the School of Education, to assist the school when necessary.
Additionally, through work with sponsored charter schools, Lindenwood faculty and staff learn about best practices in urban education and use that knowledge to inform the teacher education programs.
Where can I learn more about charter schools?
If you would like to learn more about Lindenwood’s sponsorship of Gateway Science Academy, please contact the Charter School Sponsorship Office.
Dr. Lynda Leavitt
Coordinator, Charter School Sponsorship
Kathy Marquardt, M.ED.
Assistant Coordinator, Charter School Sponsorship