What is a charter school?
A charter school is a public school, funded with public money and operated by parents, educators or community members. Charter schools must be approved by their local school district. The district and charter school negotiates a contract or “charter” based upon the proposal. Charter schools are non-sectarian, non-religious and do not discriminate in their admission policies.

What makes a charter school unique?
Each charter school is different because of the people governing the school, the staff, the families and the students. Even schools using the same curriculum can be quite different from one another.

Who can enroll in a charter school?
Anyone can. Each charter school must specify in its proposal how it will admit students. Most have adopted either a lottery or a waiting list policy. Charter schools may not use admissions tests. Charter schools are choice schools, which means parents and students choose which school they would like to attend and are limited only by space availability. Parents should also remember that many charter schools do not provide transportation; parents are responsible for getting their child to school.

To whom is a charter school responsible?
The board of directors at the charter school is responsible for all areas of operation. The charter school is directly responsible to the school district which granted it the contract or “charter.” Charter schools must also meet or exceed state academic standards.

Why do some charter schools have waiting lists?
Waiting lists occur primarily because charter schools are market driven. As a school of choice, parents decide if they want their children to attend the charter school. A successful school will have greater demand. Charter schools also must determine their ideal size, this may cause a charter school to reach their ideal size and stop growing.

What types of educational philosophies do charter schools have?
Some charter schools use a wide variety of educational philosophies. Some operate with an “open” or “experimental” philosophy, stressing experiences rather than knowledge. Many charter schools use the Core Knowledge curriculums stressing rigorous academics in a disciplined environment. Combinations of these and other curriculums and philosophies are also implemented in charter schools across the state.

How are charter schools different than my neighborhood schools?
Charter schools offer a wide variety of curriculums and education philosophies. Charters often have at-will contracts for employees and hire non-union teachers. A board of directors is responsible for the school. The board hires administrators who are responsible for the school. Parents have a voice in the running of the school through directorships on the board. Parents are directly involved in their child’s educational decisions and are often very involved volunteering their time. Some charter schools mandate parents volunteering a specific number of hours.

How are charter schools like my neighborhood schools?
Charter schools, like neighborhood schools, are funded with taxpayer money (they just operate with less.) Charter schools may have an administrator who is responsible for day-to-day operations. Special Education is often similar to the neighborhood school.

Does a charter school need to accept my special education student?
Yes, the law requires charter schools to educate their Special Education students. Some charter schools may choose to purchase Special Education services from their local school district, whereas others have hired their own staff to deliver these services.

Do charter schools pick the brightest students?
Charter schools cannot give admissions tests. They use either a lottery or waiting list policy or a combination thereof. Several charter schools have been established to serve at-risk students.

How did charter schools develop?
Policy makers and educators looking for innovative methods to reform education adopted an idea printed by Albert Shanker at an American Federation of Teachers conference in 1988. The first state to implement a Charter School Act was Minnesota in 1991.

Who is TeamCFA?
TeamCFA is a growing national network of open-enrollment, public charter schools built on the values of hard work, good citizenship, and teamwork. Schools in the TeamCFA network gain access to start-up funding, grants, training, services, the Core Knowledge curriculum, and, in some cases, the necessary facilities. Our ultimate goal is to graduate thoughtful, articulate youth who are prepared to become productive, accountable, engaged citizens.

What does TeamCFA stand for?
The acronym “TEAM” stands for together each achieves more. In the spirit of teamwork, we have found that the success of the student takes the active participation, communication, and commitment of the teacher, student, and parent working collaboratively. “CFA” stands for Challenge Foundation Academy.

Who is the Challenge Foundation?
The Challenge Foundation is a private family charitable trust founded in 1988. The Foundation’s support of over 187 charters schools through more than $20M in grants brought about the development of a model school concept and launched the TeamCFA network of high quality charter schools who provide every student with a first-class education regardless of zip code.

How does a school join the TeamCFA network?
There are currently two ways to gain access to our network: start-up and conversion. Through the expertise gained in supporting charter schools throughout the years, we have put together a school model based on best practices that were identified in the areas of academics, business, educational technology, and governance.

Do schools pay to be part of TeamCFA?
No. TeamCFA is a philanthropic support organization and does not collect fees from its network schools. TeamCFA partners with passionate, committed educators, leaders, and community groups who are able to demonstrate support of the CFA model and establish local need for underserved students. TeamCFA offers start-up costs that may include the initial financing for facilities with the vision that a successful CFA will become self-sustaining in 5–7 years.

What is required for a conversion?
Existing charter schools who share our vision of achievement, excellence, and measurable results can inquire about converting to a CFA. TeamCFA schools gain access to our network of support and benefit from finding a partner in education. Contact your nearest Regional Director for further information.

How do students enroll in a TeamCFA school?
TeamCFA public charter schools are free and follow the federal guidelines for open enrollment. If schools receive more applications than there are seats, a lottery system, as outlined by the state, is implemented. Remaining students are placed on a waitlist. Additionally, TeamCFA schools do not discriminate based on disability, race, color, gender, national origin, religion, or ancestry.

How do schools benefit from TeamCFA affiliation?
Schools in our network gain access to a range of support services that may include, but are not limited to; professional development, curriculum mapping and implementation support, assessment tools, educational technology tools, and attendance at the annual TeamCFA educational conference. Most of all they gain access to a network of professional educators with whom they can share best practices to increase student learning.