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Charter Schools FAQ Section 1

Frequently asked questions regarding general information on charter schools.

General Information

Responses to these frequently asked questions are advisory only. Charter schools and charter authorizers are encouraged to review the laws and regulations that provide the basis for these responses, and to consult with their own legal counsel regarding the application of these issues to specific situations.


Q.1 What is a charter school?

A charter school is a public school that provides 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. California Education Code (EC) also allows, under certain circumstances, for county boards of education and the State Board of Education to be charter authorizing entities.

Specific goals and operating procedures for a charter school are detailed in the agreement between the charter authorizing entity and the charter developer. A charter school is exempted from many of the statutes and regulations that apply to school districts. Students enroll in charter schools on a voluntary basis.

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Q.2 Are charter schools part of the public school system?

Yes. Charter schools are under the jurisdiction of the Public School System, as specified in EC Section 47615 External link opens in new window or tab..

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Q.3 Are there different types of charter schools?

As of the 2016-17 school year, there were approximately 1,232 active charter schools and seven all-charter districts. Of the cumulative 1,232 active charter schools, 986 (80 percent) were classroom-based, or site-based, and 246 (20 percent) were nonclassroom-based. Approximately 185 of the 1,232 active charter schools were conversion schools, with 1,047 being start-up charter schools.

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Q.4 How are charter schools listed on the California Department of Education (CDE) Web site?

An interactive map can be found on the CDE Charter Schools Division Web page that identifies the county in which a school is located and provides information on the type of school, school contacts, grade levels served, type of curriculum, and in some cases, school demographics and previous school performance.

A list of charter schools can also be found in the charter school database. Included in the listing is the charter number, school name, location (county, district, address), phone and fax numbers, e-mail address, Web site address, grade levels served, instruction type, curriculum focus, enrollment, Academic Performance Index (API) results and school rankings, funding model, start date and numbering date, and business structure.

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Q.5 Where is information about the current academic performance of a charter school located on this Web site?

API information can be found on the CDE Academic Performance Index (API) Web page.

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Q.6 What is the protocol for filing a complaint about a charter school?

Complaints should first be addressed at the school site by talking with the teacher and, if necessary, the school principal. If the problem is not resolved, the school’s governing board should be contacted, followed by the school’s charter authorizing entity. Charter schools receiving federal funds are subject to provisions of the Uniform Complaint Procedures.

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Q.7 Do charter schools receive accreditation?

Only charter schools that successfully complete an accreditation process receive accreditation. The majority of charter high schools seek accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

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Q.8 Can a traditional high school refuse to accept credits earned by a student who transfers from a charter high school?

Yes. EC Section 47605(b)(5)(A)(ii) External link opens in new window or tab. requires that each charter for a school serving high school students, include a description of procedures the school will use to notify parents about course transferability to other public high schools as well as about the eligibility of courses to meet college entrance requirements. A school district governing board may establish criteria for accepting course credits earned at another school and may disallow credits where it deems it appropriate to do so.

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Q.9 Can a charter school require each student to participate in state testing?

Please refer to Charter Schools FAQ Section 6 Question 1.

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Questions and answers associated with this topic were revised to conform with recent changes in the law. Please review the Charter School-Legislative Updates for a summary of the recent changes.

FAQs Table of Contents | Section One | Section Two | Section Three | Section Four | Section Five | Section Six | Section Seven | Section Eight | Section Nine

Questions: Charter Schools Division | charters@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6029 
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, October 25, 2017