What the Charter School Movement Means for College Students

Dec 07, 2011

From popular documentary films like 'Waiting for Superman' to President Obama's ringing endorsement, charter schools have become one of the hottest topics in current education. How does their presence affect the college students among us?

View popular schools

By Eric Garneau


If You're College-Bound

Are you a charter school student who wants to head off to a university some day? If so, a 2009 Michigan State University (MSU) study has good news for you. According to that study, students in charter schools are 7%-15% more likely to graduate and attend college than their counterparts at traditional public schools. In fact, that study found increased college attendance to be the single largest benefit to enrolling in a charter school in the first place.

Perhaps that's not so surprising. After all, many charter schools emphasize college preparedness and long-term skills more than a typical high school curriculum. Charter schools often view it as their mission to make sure students are prepared for the world after high school.

Job training helps students succeed after graduation.

Those college acceptance rates cited by MSU can certainly fluctuate from region to region. A Fall 2011 report in Philadelphia's The Notebook showed that the city's charter school students held college acceptance rates from 73% at the high end to seven percent at the low; the average was 46%. Standard high schools ran the range from 2%-53%, with an average college acceptance rate of 24%, a significantly smaller number. Meanwhile, in a famous charter school success story, Chicago's all-male Urban Prep Academy has, for the second year in a row, sent 100% of its graduating class off to college. How do they do it? Administration staunchly insists that all their students earn a bachelor's degree, which finds staff driving students to college campuses and even helping them pay for plane tickets if necessary.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Sciences
  • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Legal
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Mechanic and Repair Technologies
  • Medical and Health Professions
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Visual and Performing Arts

If You're Already in College

If you're currently a college student, the rise of charter schools might not mean that much to you - at least until you potentially become a parent and have to decide where to send your child. But that's a whole different issue to cover.

Of course, if you're going to college to become a teacher, the charter movement takes on a whole new meaning for you. When you graduate, you'll have to decide what kind of teaching job you want, which could be a tough call to make. There are certainly positives to becoming a charter school teacher. Often, chief among them are performance-based incentives, which can include both higher salaries and other rewards. Although certainly atypical, one charter school in New York started its teachers with a $125,000 yearly salary, higher than what teachers can earn almost anywhere.


But there are downsides, too. For one, numerous reports exist of high turnover in charter school teachers. According to a University of California - Berkeley study quoted in The Los Angeles Times, 50% of charter school teachers leave their jobs over a 6-year period. A September 2011 study reported in Education Week narrowed those statistics down: almost one-fourth of all charter school teachers vacate their positions after a year. Comparatively, standard district schools lose 14% of their educators. The reasons for this difference are myriad: for one, administrations at charter schools have more power to dismiss ineffective staff. Additionally, teachers will often find themselves taking on more responsibilities in charter schools, which occasionally burns them out.

If as a college student you choose to sign up with the Teach for America (TFA) movement - an increasingly popular choice - your path to charter school teaching may already be set. TFA has special agreements with several charter school organizations, including those in Chicago, to staff schools with TFA graduates. In an August 2011 interview with NPR, charter movement expert and author Steven Brill noted that the same kind of reformers behind the TFA movement are generally the ones championing charter schools anyway.

As the charter school movement picks up heat, more and more pop up around the country - check any major metropolitan area and you're likely to find charter numbers on the rise. Eventually, many of us will probably have to decide how we feel about them - as students, as educators, as parents. Though they're still somewhat of a fringe movement in the educational world, studies have shown that, although they're not necessarily better than traditional schools, they're certainly different. What do you think?

Teach for America has itself generated a fair share of controversy.

Next: View Schools

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

    • BA: Criminal Justice
    • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
    • BA: Liberal Studies
    • BA: Psychology
    • BA: Psychology - General
    • BS: Computer Science
    • AA: Criminal Justice
    • AA: Liberal Arts
    • AA: Business Administration
    • AA: Information Technology
    • AA: Cybersecurity

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • MA in Communication
    • Master of Liberal Arts
    • MA in Science Writing
    • MS in Applied Economics
    • MS in Geographic Information Systems
    • MS in Bioinformatics

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Science in Nursing - Doctor of Nursing Practice Path, Executive Leader Specialization
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • Master of Science in Nursing - Doctor of Nursing Practice Path
    • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
    • Master of Science in Legal Studies
    • MS in Psychology
    • MBA
    • Master of Public Health
    • MBA - Human Resources
    • BS in Liberal Studies
    • BS in Business Administration
    • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Investment Career Focus Area
    • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
    • BS in Nutrition Science
    • BSFIN in Accelerated MS Finance
    • AAS in Business Administration - Business
    • AAS in Legal Support and Services
    • AAS in Business Administration
    • AAS in Business Administration - Food & Hotel Management
    • AAS in Business Admin-Office Management
    • AAS in Criminal Justice
    • Medical Office Administration Certificate
    • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
    • Graduate Certificate in Addictions
    • Graduate Certificate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
    • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate
    • Pathway to Paralegal Postbaccalaureate Certificate

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Master of Science in Finance
    • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
    • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Doctor of Business Administration - Management
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Special Education
    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Cognition and Instruction
    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
    • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
    • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
    • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
    • MS in Psychology: General Psychology
    • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
    • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
    • BS in Psychology
    • B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sports Psychology
    • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
    • BS in Early Childhood
    • BS in Elementary Education / Special Education (Dual Major)

    What is your highest level of education?

    • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
    • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
    • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences
    • MSHS in Translational Microbiology
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services
    • MA in Education and Human Development in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
    • BSHS in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management
    • BSHS in Medical Laboratory Sciences
    • BSHS in Biomedical Informatics

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Doctor of Education - Character Education
    • Doctor of Education - Curriculum & Instruction
    • Doctor of Education - Higher Education
    • Ph.D. in Communication
    • Ph.D. in Education - Character Education
    • Ph.D. in Education - Curriculum & Instruction
    • Master of Arts in Communication
    • Master of Arts in Communication - Political Communication
    • Master of Arts in Communication - Strategic Communication
    • Master of Arts in Government - Political Communication
    • Master of Arts in Journalism
    • Master of Arts in Law - Business
    • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Journalism
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication
    • Bachelor of Arts in English - Communication
    • M.Ed. - Individualized Degree Program - Autism Certificate
    • M.Ed. in K-12 Special Education - Autism Certificate

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?