Q. What is a charter school?

A. Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The “charter” establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3 – 5 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school’s contract. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor – usually a state or local school board – to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them, and the public that funds them.

Q. Does charter school attendance impact student outcomes?

A. In March 2001, the Goldwater Institute published “Does Charter School Attendance Improve Test Scores?” written by Lewis Solmon, David Garcia, and Kern Paark. This study found that the longer a student attends a charter school, the greater the academic gains. Length of attendance did not produce similar results in traditional schools. However, students do need to attend school regularly to benefit from any school.

Q. What is the average enrollment of charter schools?

A. According to the 2001-02 Center for Education Reform (CER) survey of American?s charter schools, the average student enrollment in charter schools is 242 students, less than half of the traditional public school enrollment (which averages 539 students). Rainshadow plans to grow to a maximum of 200 students.

Q. What’s the difference between charter schools and other public schools?

A. Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning teachers and students choose them. They operate with freedom from many regulations that apply to traditional public schools. They generally offer teachers and students more authority to make decisions than most traditional public schools. Instead of being accountable for compliance with rules and regulations, they are accountable for academic results and for upholding their charter.

Q. How are they funded?

A. As public schools, charters are not allowed to charge tuition, and they are funded according to enrollment. In some states, such as Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, and New Jersey, they receive less than 100% of the funds allocated to their traditional counterparts for the operation of public schools. In other states, like California, additional funds or loans are made available to them. In most states, charters do not receive capital funds for facilities. They are entitled to federal categorical funding for which their students are eligible, such as Title I and Special Education monies. Federal legislation provides grants to help charters with start-up costs.

Q. Do charter schools have admissions policies?

A. By law, charter schools must have a fair and open admissions process, conducting outreach and recruitment to all segments of the community they serve. When more students apply than can be accommodated, many charters use a lottery to randomly determine which students are accepted. Many charter schools also have waiting lists.

Q. How is this school evaluated?

A. Rainshadow is sponsored by Washoe County School District and is audited annually by the school district and by the Department of Education. As part of the WCSD audit, we are also required to have an ouitside financial audit annually. We participate in all district and state testing programs and are held accounatble to the federal No Child Left Behind Law, as are all state and district programs.

Q. Are credits earned at Rainshadow able to be transferred to other schools in the district or state?

A. Yes. We are a fully chartered high school in Nevada and we are also accredited by The Northwest Association of Accredited Schools which has very high standards that schools have to meet to be accredited. You may read more about the NAAS and our most recent evaluation by clicking here.

Q. Is your school the best choice for everyone?

A. No. We serve students who are interested in taking charge of their own education and becoming responsible adults. We have a lot of freedom in our school and that requires our students to take a large amount of responsibility for their own behavior. We tell parents and students that if they require a daycare setting or a correctional setting, we are not a good choice for them. We are not set up to police people and we don’t have the staff, time or inclination to baby sit anyone.