The NJ Department of Education announced on September 30, 2011, that four, newly approved charter schools will join 21 approved charter schools currently preparing to open for New Jersey’s 2012-2013 school year. This selection brings the total number of charter schools approved in 2011 to 27, the largest number approved in any one year since the charter law was passed in New Jersey.
A charter school is a public school operated under a charter granted by the Commissioner of Education and is independent of the local school district’s board of education. It is managed by a board of trustees. The NJDOE’s Fact Sheet indicates there are 75 charter schools in New Jersey for this 2011-12 school year.
List of newly approved charters
The four, newly approved schools are in separate districts:
- Beloved Community Charter School will be in Jersey City and serve grades K-5.
- Knowledge A to Z Charter School will be in Camden and serve grades K-4.
- Regis Academy Charter School will be a K-7 serving Cherry Hill, Lawnside, Somerdale, and Voorhees Township
- Trenton Scholars Charter School will be in Trenton and serve grades K-6.
Part of national urgency
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has urged states to work with charter school operators to turn around struggling schools and provide innovation and choice to students and parents. Secretary Duncan indicates, “Children need more high-quality educational options, and charter schools have an important role to play in the school turnaround business.”
New Jersey response
“Charter schools serve a critical need in New Jersey not only by providing high-quality options for students where they otherwise do not exist, but also by serving as laboratories of innovation,” said Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf.
In relation to the four, newly approved charter schools and the 2012 list of approvals, Acting Commissioner Cerf indicated, “As we look to 2012, we are confident that these four schools, along with those currently preparing to open in 2012 and a projected large applicant pool for the fall expedited round, will help to expand the options for students and ensure that all students in New Jersey, regardless of zip code, are on track to graduate from high school ready for college and career.
This year the Department also approved the expansion of several of the state’s highest performing charter schools. TEAM Academy, a network of KIPP schools in Newark, will add a new elementary school campus, ultimately serving 500 additional students. North Star Academy, also in Newark, will continue to grow current schools and plans to add a new elementary and middle school campus, ultimately serving 590 new students.
Ongoing process with oversight
The NJ Department of Education also has taken steps to increase its accountability systems for charter schools to ensure both the quality of the school and equality of access for all students to the school. This accountability system includes a more robust and quantitative renewal process, the introduction of performance contracts for each school, and more frequent evaluations during a school’s five year charter term.
In schools throughout the state and nation, the call for innovation and goal-based learning resounds and draws fresh commitment. The nation’s future is dependent upon the successful education of its children. Strong schools, charter, private, and public, all have important roles to play in providing genuine opportunity for all learners. The critical component in education’s 21st century transformation is the success of every learner.
Article by Florence McGinn