Charter Schools:

New Model for Public Schools Provides Opportunities and Challenges

HEHS-95-42: Published: Jan 18, 1995. Publicly Released: Jan 18, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the growth of charter schools, focusing on: (1) the number of charter schools that have been approved under state laws; (2) the characteristics of charter schools' instructional programs; (3) whether charter schools operate autonomously and are held accountable for student performance; and (4) the challenges charter schools pose for federal education programs.

GAO found that: (1) 9 states have approved 134 charter schools developed by teachers, school administrators, parents, and private corporations; (2) as charter schools increase in number, so do their diversity and innovation; (3) charter school instructional programs focus on multiage classes and often teach subjects within a common theme; (4) some charter schools specialize in certain subjects, while other charter schools target specific student populations; (5) charter schools' autonomy varies among the states based on their legal status, approval, funding, and exemption from rules; (6) charter schools vary in how they measure student performance and it is too soon to determine whether these schools will meet their student performance objectives; (7) the major challenge for federal program administration is determining whether those charter schools that are legally independent of their school districts can be considered local education agencies (LEA) for program administration purposes; and (8) although states have taken different approaches to address charter schools' status as LEA, further clarification is needed on how charter schools can be treated for federal program administration and whether these schools are eligible for educational funds.

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