Frequently Asked Questions about Charter Schools & Enrollment
About Charter Schools
What makes charter schools different from traditional district schools?
Because they are independent from NYC Department of Education, 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.
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.
Are charter schools successful?
NYC charter schools significantly outperform their district counterparts in Math annually, and continued this trend for both ELA and Math during 2015-16 testing. African-American and Hispanic charter students also continue to outperform their district peers. In math, African-American charter students are more than twice as likely to be proficient than their district peers, and Hispanic students are nearly twice as likely to be proficient.
In Central Brooklyn, Harlem, and the South Bronx, where many charter schools are concentrated, and continue to grow, charter performance far exceeds that of the district. In the South Bronx alone, 14 of the top 20 schools in math proficiency were charters. You can use our "Data Dashboards" to learn more about a particular charter school’s accomplishments.
What types of students attend charter schools?
The approximately 106,600 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. In the 2016-17 school year, there are more than 90% Hispanic or African American students in New York City's charter 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; nearly 80% of NYC charter school students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
Do charter schools charge tuition?
No. They are free public schools.
Do charter schools have any religious affiliations?
Do charter schools have to take students who are English Language Learners?
Yes. A majority of charter schools provide English as a Second Language (ESL) support, while a few provide dual-language programs in English and Spanish for all students. Parents should speak directly to school leadership to get a better understanding of the instructional strategies they use to support the academic success of English Language Learners.
Do charter schools admit students who are receiving special education services?
Yes, charter schools work to meet the goals and objectives outlined in students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEP). However, just as with district schools, not every charter school provides an appropriate placement for every child. A majority of charter schools have appropriate placements and programs for children with less restrictive environments written into their special education program, while some offer a wider array of placements and services.
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.
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 attend an open house or 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.
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.
How do I enroll my child in a charter school?
There are three easy ways to apply to a charter schools.
1. Use the Common Online Charter School Application below to apply to multiple schools at once. The application is open from December 1 to April 1 only.
2. Visit the school’s website directly to apply online or download a hard copy of its application.
3. Stop by the school to pick up an application or call the school and ask staff to mail you an application.
Do I need proof of my family’s immigration status to enroll my child in a charter school?
No, schools cannot request this documentation.
Do charter schools have selective admissions?
No. Charter schools are free and open to all children, regardless of their academic skills or needs. They must take children on a first-come, first-served basis. However when more children apply than there are seats available, charter schools hold random admissions lotteries.
How old does my child need to be to apply to a charter school?
This depends on the individual schools and the grade levels they serve. Pre-K (UPK) is the earliest entry point for some charter schools, but most begin in kindergarten. Typically children must turn 4-years-old by December 1 of the year they are admitted to a Pre-K program and must turn 5-years-old by December 31 of the year they are admitted to kindergarten. Check with the individual school you are applying to for more information.
Can I apply to more than one charter school?
Yes. You can apply separately to as many charter schools as you want. Please note, however, that by law NYC charter schools must give preference to students who live within the Community School District (CSD) where the charter school is located. You can find out which CSD you belong to on our Find a Charter School page. You can apply to multiple schools at once through the Charter Center's Common Online Charter School Application from December 1 - April 1 only.
Can I apply for a charter school that is not in my Community School District (CSD)?
Yes, although, as mentioned above, schools must give admissions preference to students located in their CSD and many charter schools have long waiting lists of students who live within the CSD.
When is my application due?
Each school sets its own application deadline, but most schools require that applications be in before April 1 for a child’s placement in August/September. Parents should inquire with individual schools about their deadlines. The Charter Center does not accept applications.
What is the lottery?
The lottery is an admissions process required by New York State law that is held when there are more student applications to a charter school than seats available. The lottery randomly selects from all applicants for admission. Students who are not selected in the lottery will be placed on a waiting list for spaces that may become available in the future.
When is the lottery?
Each school sets its own lottery date. Most school admission lotteries are held in April for placement in the fall of that same year. Students who seek admission after the lottery date are placed on the waiting list. If there are vacancies and no waiting list, then seats are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
Is anyone given preference in the lottery?
Yes. Charter schools are required to offer a lottery preference to siblings of enrolled students and to students who reside in the local Community School District (CSD). Parents can find their CSD at www.nyccharterschools.org/charter-school-search. Charter schools may also offer preferences for students who are academically at risk, including those from low-income families, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and children of school staff. Charter school staff preference is limited to 15% of the school’s entire student body. Lottery preferences vary by charter school.
Does my child need to be present for the admissions process?
No, your child does not need to be present for the application submission or the lottery.
How do I know if my child gets in to a charter school?
The charter school will contact the family directly with either a letter or a phone call (or both) to let you know if your child has been accepted. You will then be required to contact the school in order to confirm that you want to accept the enrollment.
If my child is accepted, will he/she have to participate in the lottery each year?
No, students who are accepted through the lottery will be enrolled in the school and be able to remain there in future years. Parents must let the school know that they plan to return each year.
If my child is enrolled in a charter school, will his/her younger siblings also be able to attend that school?
Siblings of children in charter schools must still apply to a charter school. They will, however, receive preference in the lottery and are likely to get in if there is space in the school.
Can I transfer my child from one charter school to another?
No. Charter schools are independent from one another. If you would like to move your child to another charter school, you will need to go through the application process for the school to which you wish to move.
If my child attends a charter middle school will they automatically be enrolled in a charter high school?
No. Any time a child moves from one school to another, families have to go through the enrollment process required by the next school. However, if a school provides elementary grades at one site and middle school grades at another site, that child will have the right to move to the middle school from the elementary school.
How do I find a charter school?
The Charter Center map feature allows you to search for schools near your home address, in your Community School District, by borough and more. Find a Charter School now.