Charter schools in the US are considered to play a central role in reform of public education. Starting in 1990s, they are intended to improve public education system by allowing the freedom to be innovative and adjust the curriculum to focus on meeting the needs of their students. They receive public funding, thus, they are open to all students that wish to enroll, and are responsible to meet federal and state requirements. Up to date, forty-two states and the District of Columbia have passed charter school laws. Charter schools currently serve more than four percent of the public school population with slightly higher proportion of minority students than traditional public schools.
Recent CREDO report comparing outcomes of charter schools with traditional public schools showed that in average, students performed slightly higher in reading and similar in math. However, when disaggregating data by groups, the study revealed that English language learners performed significantly better on charter schools. Data also showed that there is a negative impact on certain ethnic groups such as White and Asian students.
Some charters focus on dual language immersion, providing the option of additive language learning for minority children. This option has been reduced in traditional public schools as a consequence of some states’ prohibition of bilingual programs and increased emphasis on English-only education since the late 1990s. Furthermore, revitalization of languages through education has also found a niche in charter schools with the establishment of Ojibwe Immersion Charter School as an example.
A variety of culture-oriented or language focused charter schools are proliferating across the nation and families have shown great interest. Demand exceeds offer in some cases, and students are chosen by lottery and placed in waiting lists. However, there is a concern that expanding choice will expand more segregation in public schools. Several national studies have already pointed out that charter schools are slightly more segregated than traditional public schools. Fostering diversity in schools can become an asset in culture-oriented and language-focused programs. Integration in schools guarantee quality and equity of opportunities for all students. This issue deserves further attention and investigation.