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What You Need to Know about Distance Learning Charter Schools

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Charter School Movement Grows As Obama Voices Plans To Expand System

NEW YORK - MARCH 30: Third grade students Tyler Smalls (L) and Sekou Cisse raise their hands in reading comprehension class at Harlem Success Academy, a free, public elementary charter school March 30, 2009 in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. All students at the charter school are required to wear uniforms. The charter school emphasizes classes like science, geography, and social studies, as well as instruction in chess, art, and dance. President Obama recently called for a lifting of the caps currently in place that limit charter schools expansion, which in New York often share school building space with regular public schools. Currently 115 charter schools operate in the state of New York, over half of them in New York City, with 30 more approved to open in the next 18 months.

Chris Hondros / Staff/ Getty Images News/ Getty Images
Interested in enrolling your son or daughter in an online charter school? Here are the answers to the most common questions about charter school learning.

How are distance learning charter schools different from traditional public schools?

Charter schools generally have more freedom than traditional schools. They are often able to select their own type of instruction and may avoid many of the bureaucratic regulations that public schools must submit to. Consequently, a growing number of charter schools offer an online curriculum and give students the chance to work on their own.

How are distance learning charter schools different from distance learning private schools?

Distance learning charter schools are funded by the government, while distance learning private schools charge tuition. Distance learning charter schools must meet several state and federal requirements, while private schools have more freedom to do as they please. Students enrolled in distance learning charter schools are provided with instruction and supplies free of charge. Some programs even provide students with a personal computer and an internet connection.

What type of curriculum do distance learning charter schools use?

The curriculum requirements vary from school to school. Some states have strict curriculum requirements that charter schools must adhere to. Others allow charter schools to select their own curriculum. Generally speaking, most distance learning charter schools offer the same types of courses as traditional schools in their state. Because students do not have access to physical facilities, classes such as gym, woodshop, and home economics may be limited.

Do distance learning students have to take tests?

Most states require that charter school students take state exams. Additionally, distance learning programs often use unit tests to measure students' progress. Some states do allow parents to sign a testing waiver form that exempts their child from mandated state testing.

Can a diploma from a distance learning charter school be used for college admission?

Yes – Most charter school diplomas are accepted in the same way that public school diplomas are accepted (particularly if the charter school is regionally accredited). In most cases, colleges and employers are unable to tell the difference.

Can adults finish their high school diploma through an online charter school?

Like traditional public schools, charter schools are aimed at educating minors. The cut-off age varies from state to state. Some states allow students to continue using public education until they are 21. Older adults interested in earning a high school diploma may want to consider enrolling in a private online high school program.

How do I find out more about distance learning charter schools in my area?

Most states now allow charter schools. To find an online charter school serving your area, see: State-by-State List of Free Online Charter Schools.
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