Charter School FAQ

Frequently asked questions about New York City charter schools.



What are charter schools?
Charter schools are free public schools that are open to all New York City children. Charter schools operate independently, according to the terms of a performance contract or “charter.” Though public, they are not run by the NYC Department of Education. Charter schools commit to meeting specific academic goals, set by New York State, then make their own decisions about how to achieve them. If the goals are not met, the charter may be revoked and the school shut down. The combination of freedom and accountability for succeeding allows charter schools to respond to community needs, try new approaches, and put student learning first.
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What makes charter schools different from traditional district schools?
Because they are independent from the district system, charter schools have greater flexibility in the way they operate. Charter schools are free to develop their own academic program, choose staff, set educational goals, offer a longer school day and school year, and establish their own standards for student behavior. Charter schools are required to raise student achievement. If they do not meet their performance goals they can be closed.
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What are the benefits of enrolling my child in a charter school?
Charter schools provide an alternative to traditional district schools. Charter schools allow parents the opportunity to choose a school based upon what they think will work best for their child. Many charter schools also tend to:
  • emphasize not only the core subjects of English and math, but also the arts, science, and languages;
  • have longer school days and year;
  • be smaller overall, providing a more personal atmosphere.
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Are charter schools successful?
New York City's charter schools have a good record of achievement overall. Many charter schools have high records of achievement while others are not as strong. In order to learn more about a particular charter school’s accomplishments, use our our "Data Dashboards."
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What types of students attend charter schools?
The approximately 56,600 students who attend New York City's charter schools come from all backgrounds and ethnicities, and include a higher percentage of Hispanic or African American students than traditional New York City district schools. Last year, there were 92% Hispanic or African American students in New York City's charter schools, compared with 70% in traditional district schools. This is in part because charter schools are mostly located in areas in which a large number of Latino and African American students live.
Charter schools provide educational opportunities for families at all income levels, and have close to the same percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch as traditional New York City district schools.
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Do charter schools charge tuition?
No. They are free public schools.
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Do charter schools have any religious affiliations?
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What is expected of charter school students?
As each charter school is independently run, expectations differ from school to school. Most charter schools are committed to providing their students with structured and safe environments where they can focus on learning. Many charter schools require their students to commit to a set core of values centered on respect, hard work and achievement. Many charter schools also require students to wear uniforms.
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How do I know which charter school will meet my child’s needs?
To help you determine if a charter school is the right fit for your child, you should read about a charter school’s mission and education program by visiting its website or calling the school directly. The Charter Center provides contact information for each charter school in our map feature. After reviewing your top charter school choices, we recommend that you also schedule a tour with each school. Not only does this enable you and your child to get a better feel for the school’s staff and culture but also provides you with the opportunity to ask questions in person.
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Do charter schools serve English Language Learners?
Yes. However, a majority of charter schools provide only English as a Second Language (ESL) support. Parents should speak directly to school leaders to get a better understanding of the instructional strategies their schools use to support the academic growth of English Language Learners.
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Can parents get involved in charter schools?
Yes, almost every charter school encourages parent involvement in the school and parental involvement in their child’s education. Some charter schools have parent representatives on their boards; others work with parents through a parent association.
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Where are charter schools located?
Charter schools are located in every borough of the city, serving students from all areas and neighborhoods. Many are concentrated in Central Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx. To locate charter schools in your area, click here.
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How do I enroll my child in a charter school?
Parents can fill out the Common Online Charter Application. Each school sets its own application deadline, but many schools have an April 1 deadline for a child’s placement in August/September. You should inquire with individual schools about their deadlines. Click here for more information about the admissions process. From December - April 1st, you can use the Charter Center's Common Online Charter School Application to find and apply to schools near you. Please note: The application deadline for the 2014-15 school year has passed, but some schools may still be accepting applications for a place on their waitlists. We recommend you reach out to schools directly. You can search for charter schools using the school search.
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How do I find a charter school?
Click here to search for charter schools.
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