What is a Charter School?
Charter schools are public, nonsectarian schools that operate pursuant to an agreement between the charter school and the sponsoring school board or other public chartering authority. Charter schools have the flexibility, authority, and responsibility to operate and innovate in exchange for greater accountability for results - student learning. The "charter" establishing each school is a legal agreement detailing the school's mission, programs, methods of assessment, finances, and measures of success.
While free from many state regulations, students in charter schools take state tests required of other public schools students. Charter schools may not discriminate in admission and students are selected by lottery.
What's the difference between charter schools and other public schools?
Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning teachers and students choose them. They operate with freedom from many regulations that apply to traditional public schools. They generally offer teachers and students more authority to make decisions than most traditional public schools. Instead of being accountable for compliance with rules and regulations, they are accountable for academic results and for upholding their charter. To learn more about what sets charter schools apart from their counterparts, read Ten Things to Know About Charter Schools.
When drafting charter school laws, most states explain their intent to: (1) increase opportunities for learning and access to quality education for all students, (2) create choice for parents and students within the public school system, (3) provide a system of accountability for results in public education, (4) encourage innovative teaching practices, (5) create new professional opportunities for teacher, (6) encourage community and parent involvement in public education, and (7) leverage improved public education broadly.
-Text copied from the Pennsylvania Coalition of Charter Schools