CHARTER SCHOOL FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS WHAT IS A CHARTER SCHOOL? Charter schools are public schools created through a businesslike contract or "charter" between the charter governance board and the sponsoring school board. Charter schools have freedom from most state rules and regulations in exchange for greater accountability for results. Charter schools foster an environment for innovation and parental choice, and fulfill a specific local need in education. They can exist as living laboratories that influence the larger public school system. Their leaders may experiment with different instructional theories, site-based management techniques, and other innovations. They learn, sometimes by trial and error, what works best for their student population. Regular schools can observe and learn from what happens in the charter school and make similar improvements. Through this process, the entire public school system is continually challenged to improve itself.
WHY DO WE WANT A CHARTER SCHOOL? The parents initiating Quaking Aspen Field School (QAFS) are passionate about education, children, and the community, and feel that educational choice will benefit everyone. A charter school gives us the freedom to teach our children with an alternative curriculum, teaching methodology, and classroom structure.
WHO CAN ATTEND A CHARTER SCHOOL? Any child in the district can attend a charter school. There is no entrance exam, no tuition, no pre-requisites. In addition, any child from another district can open-enroll into the charter school.
HOW IS A CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDED? A charter school is funded by education tax dollars, just like any public school. Our school district receives revenue from the state and from local property taxes, which currently amounts to approximately $17,000 per student. The charter school negotiates a cost per student rate with the district, which then becomes the operating income for the charter school. The difference between what the school district receives, and what the charter school charges remains with the district. In addition to funds from the district, the charter school is eligible to receive state and federal grants for planning and start-up.
WHAT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SOUTH SHORE SCHOOL DISTRICT IN RELATION TO THE CHARTER SCHOOL? Wisconsin divides its charter schools into two types: Instrumentality and non-instrumentality. QAFS would be a non-instrumentality, which means that it will have authority over its own curriculum, own budget, and own staff. It will be responsible for its own liability insurance and spending within its budget. Our contract with South Shore School district means that QAFS is a subcontractor for educational services. Both parties are responsible for upholding the terms of the contract.
WHAT IS THE CONTRACT? The charter is a performance contract detailing the schoolâ€™s mission, program, goals, students served, and methods of assessment. The charter school is then performing a contracted service for an established dollar amount as set forth in the charter.
WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THIS SCHOOL? Charter schools have a separate governing board that has authority to determine governance process, school policies, budget, contracts, staffing, and educational programs. In return, the school is held accountable to comply with its contract, and state and federal educational standards.
WHAT IS OUR TIMELINE? We are asking the school board to approve our charter school proposal so we can continue our planning process. We will submit our grant proposal to the state in April, and we will then have a planning year to finalize plans for the school. It would then open in the fall of 2012.
HOW IS THIS GOING TO AFFECT OUR COMMUNITY? For students, the benefits are many: additional educational options, opportunity for alternative delivery models, business/school partnerships, and community collaboration. The district stands to benefit from increased total enrollment, as the charter school will appeal to families who currently homeschool or reside outside the district. For the community, a charter school will provide an opportunity for greater involvement in education. Also, a charter school can revitalize our community. It can become a magnet for people to come to our area, and can contribute to economic revitalization for the South Shore.
THE FIVE PILLARS PROJECT BASED LEARNING Interdisciplinary Learning - A project for the individual and groups, offers the learner a choice and is a natural way to cross over and into many disciplines at once. The Advisory Approach - This allows the teacher and their students to stay together as a family unit for the duration of their learning career. In advisory, we will utilize multiaged grouping of our students. Students and Teachers Explore Together - PBL builds trust between the teacher and students because students are given a voice and teachers are put in a place of learning right alongside students.
RESPONSIVE CLASSROOM The foundation of our responsive classroom is based on an advisory model, where students learn and practice democratic principles of civility, responsibility, self control, and cooperation for the greater good.
TECHNOLOGY Individualize Learning - everyone will have a personal learning plan that meets each learnerʼs needs. We will use Project Foundry for this purpose. Mobile technology devices in the field - this allows learning to be recorded anywhere learning occurs. Ipads, digital cameras, video, blogging from the field. Digital Portfolios - these can be shared and worked on anywhere, at home, school, in the field. Blended Learning - the utilization of on-line content delivery tools will maximize individualized learning. It can be accessed 24/7 365 days a year. Our learners will have access to it anywhere learning occurs.
PLACE BASED LEARNING Place Based Learning is an educational approach that draws on local history, culture, economics, environment, and circumstances as a curriculum source. It connects students to their community by promoting citizenship, entrepreneurship, community sustainability, and environmental stewardship. Service Learning is an integral part of this.
THE THREE E’S (EXPEDITIONS, ENVIRONMENTAL, EXPERIENTIAL) Expeditions - Overnight expeditions will be planned into our school calendar, appropriate to the age group. Environmental - this approach will teach students how natural environments function and, particularly, how we human beings can manage our behavior and ecosystems in order to live sustainably. Our school will model for others how to be stewards of our local environment. Experiential Learning is learning by doing -- it includes knowledge and skills acquired outside of book/lecture learning situations through work, play, and other life experiences.
THE DESIGN ESSENTIALS OUR YEAR The school will be planned around the Year-Round Calendar concept. The four seasons will consist of a ten-week session with approximately 3 weeks off in between. During each ten week session, we will have one overnight expedition, tailored to suit the ages of students involved.
OUR WEEK During the week, learning will take place at school Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Mondays and Fridays will be Open Lab Sessions where teachers will be available for students and families. Students may choose to do Family-led Project Based Learning at home, or drop in at school to work with a teacher. Teachers will be accessible either through face to face contact, or remotely.
OUR DAY The school day will be divided into two parts. Mornings will be spent in Advisory-led Project Based Learning. This is also the time when students will practice basic skills needed for the projects they are involved in. Afternoons will be spent out in the community doing Field Studies and Service Learning Projects.
Quaking Aspen Field School Building community, fostering growth, preparing to lead, while respecting the environment.
WEBSITES FOR MORE INFORMATION: Charter Schools in the United States: www.uscharterschools.org Center for Education Reform: http://edreform.com Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction: http://dpi.wi.gov Wisconsin dpi info on charter schools: http://dpi.wi.gov/sms/csindex.html Wikipedia article on charter schools:
George Lucasâ€™s Edutopia info about Project Based Learning: http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning Project Based Learning Management System: http://www.projectfoundry.org/ Place Based Learning Information: http://www.promiseofplace.org/ Reggio Emilia Information: http://www.reggioemiliaapproach.net/ The Responsive Classroom Information: http://www.responsiveclassroom.org/ Multiage Grouping Information: http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/instrctn/in500.htm