Charter Schools vs Public Schools a Critical Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Charter Schools vs. Public Schools

A Critical Analysis

Options for Families


Opportunities for Innovation


Fiscal Inefficiency

High Turnover of the Teachers

Control & Accountability

The given research paper is an attempt to evaluate the merits and demerits of charter schools and public schools in the pursuit of identifying the better schooling system. The document comprises of literature review which helps in identifying the degree of effectiveness of charter schools and also answers of criticisms that have been made on these schools so far. For a beginning teacher, it is important to establish an understanding of differences between charter schools and public schools. Furthermore, in order to be an effective educator, this understanding is of fundamental importance. The research sheds lights on factors diversity, competition, innovation, fiscal viability, control and authority.


"Charter schools vs. public schools" is an old debate in the American education system. There are two separate schools of thoughts on the subject matter each advocating one of these school systems. However, charter schools are in their infancy as compared to the traditional public schools and there is relatively less evidence present which would be helpful in indicating if any one of them is better than the other. Although many teachers unions are against charter schools claiming that these schools are widening gaps in American society on racial and economic grounds, there benefits offered by these schools due to their innovative approach which thrives due to autonomy, cannot be ignored.

For the beginning teachers, it is important to understand what constitutes a healthy educational environment which provides maximum benefits to its recipients (students, families and society itself). A critical review of pros and cons offered by charter schools and public schools would enable beginning teachers to study and understand these elements in detail. Furthermore, in order to become an effective teacher, it is essential to understand how the needs of the students vary in different social settings and how the community-based and organizational forces (school policies, environment etc.) can affect the performance of the teacher.

This literature review is intended to perform a detailed critical analysis of charter schools and public schools. This research is intended to examine how the students, their families and communities react to these two schooling systems. Furthermore, the impacts of factors like diversity, competition, innovation, fiscal viability, control and authority, will also be evaluated.

Definition of Charter Schools and Public Schools

Charter schools are an amalgamation of private and public schooling systems. Where public schools are funded by the government and state authorities, private institutions enjoy autonomy and freedom to exercise innovative practices. On the other hand, charter schools are educational institutions funded by state and other educational bodies. They are also provided with donations from various communities and enterprises in the name of social welfare. Although the state government is the funding body, the educational policies of the governing authorities do not levy on them. Therefore, they enjoy freedom of devising their own charter and code of conduct.

The system of charter schools gained popularity in late 1980s and the first chartered school got registered in the state of Minnesota in 1992. This regime of educational system has been replacing the traditional schooling model ever since however it is too early to identify if they will be able to eliminate the prevailing educational model. The charter schools thrive on the basis of three basic principles: the freedom to make choice, ample opportunities offered by flexible educational model coupled with reasonable opportunity.

In the charter schools, the management of the school is free to devise its own set of regulations that best fit the educational model and the requirements of the given community and locality where the school is located. Furthermore, charter schools mainly have some niche which gives them specialization such music or scientific studies. On the other hand, public schools have a pre-decided curriculum which is uniformly levied on all the institutes that fall under the jurisdiction of state's educational board. Furthermore, public educational institutes report to the educational boards for their performance and other administrative matters with little authority left to the management of these schools (Alburger, 2012).

The overall models of these two schooling system has various pros and cons which has given rise to an ongoing debate: which schooling system is better? The debate has remained inconclusive so far as the charter schools have been in place for less than three decades and they have shown a pattern of performance which does not appear to be uniform.

Charters schools vs. Public Schools

In order to evaluate which schooling system offers maximum advantages and effectiveness with efficiency, it is important that there are merits and demerits are weighed down individually. A critical analysis would enable us to identify which schooling system s=provides most suitable solution to the needs of today's American society which also going through a phase of transition itself. In the debate related to charter schools vs. public schools, it is argued that where the autonomy offered charter schools makes them demonstrate innovative ways of imparting education; it makes them less liable for their performance. All the attributes discussed in this debate are related to the freedom provided to these schools (Greene et al., 2003).

Options for Families

Charter schools established in certain localities offer various advantages to the families. Firstly, they are located in the areas where there are no or less public schools allowing an easy access to education. These charter schools provide education which is tailored as per community's background, therefore the students do not feel any unnecessary need to struggle for adjustments. Furthermore, many charter schools develop certain specialties or niches. These specialties make the charter schools stand out and allow the parents to have a vast variety of choice for their child's education. Therefore, the parents are in a better position of evaluating if the prevailing education system can satisfy the requirements related to their child's education.

Other than these benefits, the charter schools are visibly established in areas where the crime rates are higher and the children are more deprived of education. Therefore, the charter schools cater to the parents who are unable to have access to the public institution. There is also an argument that the charter schools are an extension of state welfare system which allows state to provide education to the deprived part of the society without making them feel stigmatic. In the charter schools, the teachers appear to show cultural responsiveness because of their better understanding of community's background (Betts & Hill, 2006).

Public schools on the other hand, follows a rigid form of pre-established schooling system with pre-decided methodology of teaching which takes away spontaneity and innovativeness. Furthermore, since the teaching methods and the curriculum are uniform and cannot be customized, therefore it gives rise to a risk that the specific needs of a child remains ignored.


Diversity is the principle advantage offered by charter schools. In the public schools, the curriculum and teaching methods remain the same which ignores the needs of the students from diverse backgrounds. Today's American society is facing a high degree of diversity triggered by race and ethnicity, gender-based division and social hierarchy. Due to these factors, the needs of the students differ greatly from each other. Public schools struggle to address the diverse needs of the students as the teachers are usually unqualified to do so and the given course material may not support students' learning style (Hoxby, 2004).

Considering these difficulties, diversity can be considered as the strength of charter schools. As stated earlier, charter schools customize their teaching methods and respective courses according to community's needs; therefore they are in a better state of understanding the requirements of the students and satisfy them accordingly. However critics of charter schools also provide an argument that the American society is already struggling with the menaces of diversity in the name of racism, social inequality and gender bias. Presence of charter schools is further adding to this problem. The teachers' associations in many states, are against the charter schools on the ground that charter schooling system is widening the gap in the society due following racial and class-based discriminatory lines. Furthermore, the needs of students who lack English language proficiency and have other disabilities also remain unsatisfied (Chen, 2009).

But if the benefits offered by charter schools are evaluated in the lens of diversity, it can be identified that charter schools are addressing to the communities that are ignored under uniform education system. Therefore, irrespective of the debate that it is giving rise to division in American society, charter schools are managing to impart education yet satisfying the needs of their targeted students.

Opportunities for Innovation

With the changing landscape of the American society, innovation has managed to penetrate into every field and profession; education is no different. The innovation in the living styles of today's Americans has also changed their preferences towards education. It was the urge for innovation which has given rise to the present public…

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