Charter schools and education: term paper topics

Looking for a term paper topic for your education class? The number of charter schools has been growing in recent years, expanding into many state school districts.

Charter schools are an alternative to public school. (Credit: Christine Daniloff)

Charter schools are an alternative to public school. (Credit: Christine Daniloff)

Interesting research paper topics include describing what is charter school education, charter school versus public school opportunities and the debate over teacher certification.

Charter vs. public schools

For your research paper topic, consider comparing and contrasting charter school with public school education. Charter schools are very similar to public schools, yet vary in specific ways that set them apart. According to Uncommon Schools, a New York-based charter school organization:

  • Charter schools are independently run public schools that have more flexibility in their operations, yet are more accountable for their academic results and organizational performance.
  • Parents have a choice of sending their children to charter schools, rather than having school districts dictate what public school will accept their children.
  • Attending students in charter schools are usually picked by lottery.
  • Charter schools are free to students, receive public funding like public schools and are entitled to federal categorical funding for eligible students.

Each U.S. state passes its own laws about charter schools, making funding, accountability, curriculum and certification of teachers different between states.

Better option for minority students

You could also research the opportunity that charter schools offer inner city children. While charter schools are open to all students, working class minority families have embraced charter schools as a better alternative for their children than often run-down, low performing and poorly funded public schools. According to a Washington, D.C. Public Charter School Board report, 83 percent of the district’s charter school students in the 2014-15 school year were black.

In “Black Families Flock to D.C.’s Charter Schools,” by Jason Russell in the Washington, D.C. Examiner, posted August 12, 2015, Darren Woodruff, chairman of the school board, explained, “Parents like the quality education, academic rigor, diverse programs and innovative approaches that public charter schools offer.” They also like the different choices available, such as Montessori teaching method, extended day, year-round classes, language immersion and other perks, said Woodruff.

Teacher certification debate for charter schools

For your term paper you could research the debate over whether teachers in charter schools should be certified. Of the 42 states and D.C. that have charter school laws, only three don’t require any certification, while all the others require all or a percentage of their teachers to be certified or licensed, according to the Education Commission of the States. The Education Policy Center at Michigan State University reports that compared with traditional public school teachers, charter school teachers are 19 percent less likely to be certified in a specific field, 23 percent less likely to be certified in their main assignment field and have seven fewer years of experience.

In “North Carolina Cuts Teacher Certification Requirements for Charter Schools,” Haley Strauss of Heartland wrote on August 2, 2013, that North Carolina was among the states to cut certification requirements. Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed a law that let North Carolina hire non-certified teachers for charter schools. Bill sponsor Senator Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) said that non-licensed people can make excellent teachers and that charter schools are an appropriate place to try out innovative ideas.

On the other side of the debate, Travis Rawlings, a licensing coordinator with the Utah Office of Education, said it’s inexcusable that in some charter schools in Utah, 8 in 10 teachers did not have appropriate licensing and qualifications, compared with only 2.5 percent of teachers in all schools in the state being unqualified. “There’s almost no reason not to be qualified,” Rawlings said in “Many Utah charter-school teachers aren’t ‘qualified’—or sticking around,” by Benjamin Wood in Salt Lake Tribune, October 12, 2015. “There will always be one or two, but to get to 85 percent — that’s a significant oversight,” said Rawlings.

For more information, check out Questia’s library on Charter Schools. 

Do you consider charter schools a good alternative to public schools?

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