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Charter Schools CalEdFacts - CalEdFacts

This content is part of California Department of Education's information and media guide about education in the State of California. For similar information on other topics, visit the full CalEdFacts.

A charter school is a public school that may provide instruction in any combination of grades (kindergarten through grade twelve). Parents, teachers, or community members may initiate a charter petition, which is typically presented to and approved by a local school district governing board. The law grants chartering authority to county boards of education and the State Board of Education under certain circumstances, such as the appeal of a petition’s denial by a school district governing board or the direct approval of countywide benefit or statewide benefit charter schools.

The specific goals and operating procedures for a charter school are detailed in the agreement (the charter) between the authorizing entity and the school’s organizers. Charter status frees the school from many of the state statutes and regulations that apply to school districts. It is the intent of the California Legislature under state law that charter schools operate independently from the existing school district structure as a method to accomplish all of the following:

Charter schools are subject to the following conditions:

In 1992, California became the second state in the nation to adopt public charter school legislation. Currently, about 982 active charter schools and eight all-charter districts are operating in California. Of the individual active charter schools:

Charter schools are located throughout the state in 50 of California’s 58 counties and in rural, suburban, and urban areas. Student populations are diverse and tend to reflect the student populations of the districts in which the charter schools are located. The number of students enrolled in charter schools is approximately 370,000, or approximately six percent of the public school student population in California.

Innovative charter schools provide programs that offer everything from an emphasis on foreign languages to performing and fine arts. Some charter schools develop partnerships with other public agencies (such as the California Conservation Corps, county government agencies, and local community colleges), and some provide specialized programs (such as a program to place students in work experience settings or a program of comprehensive family services). Although most charter school students attend site-based programs with the look and feel of a traditional classroom, other students participate in programs with research-based alternative learning modalities (such as the Montessori method) or programs that are tailored to the needs of the individual student (such as nonclassroom-based or independent study and virtual programs). In some cases, charter schools focus on dropout recovery, providing a second chance to students who wish to pursue a high school diploma but who have not been successful in other settings.

All charter schools must participate in the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program and other state assessments. Charter schools receive an Academic Performance Index like all other public schools. An interactive Web-based map, which affords the public easy access to specific information on charter schools, is available on the CDE Charter Schools in California Counties Web page [].

For more information regarding charter schools, contact the Charter Schools Division at 916-322-6029, or by e-mail at Additional information is available on the CDE Charter Schools Web page [] and the U.S. Charter Schools Web site [] External link opens in new window or tab. .

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Questions:   Charter Schools Division | | 916-322-6029
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