For Families

The Charter School Difference

The Charter Schools Act of 1998 allowed for the creation of charter schools in New York to:

  • Improve student learning and achievement;
  • Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are at-risk of academic failure;
  • Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;
  • Create new professional opportunities for teachers, school administrators, and other school personnel;
  • Provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system; and,
  • Provide schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools established under this article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results.

The Accountability Bargain

Unlike traditional public schools, public charter schools in New York State are granted independence to develop their academic program, set educational goals, establish student expectations and culture, and select their instructors, staff, and leaders. In exchange for this freedom to set their program, public charter schools are held accountable for demonstrating strong academic outcomes for the students and families they serve. Charter schools that do not produce strong outcomes may be closed.

The expectation of the Institute and the SUNY Board of Trustees is that students will leave SUNY authorized charter schools fully prepared and educated for their next step whether that is middle school, high school, or college and career.

Learn more about the accountability measures for SUNY authorized public charter schools.

Opportunity for All

Charter schools in New York are tuition free and open to all children of New York State residents, regardless of intellectual ability, measures of achievement or aptitude, athletic ability, disability, race, creed, gender, national origin, religion, or ancestry.  If applications exceed available seats, the school conducts an admission lottery. Additionally, under New York State Law, charter schools are required to make good faith efforts to attract and maintain students with disabilities, English Language Learners (ELLs), and economically disadvantaged students. Schools may also add an admissions preference for students at-risk including economically disadvantaged, students with disability, ELLs, and homeless. Today, 79% of students at SUNY authorized charter schools are eligible for free or reduced priced lunch, 7% are ELLs, and 16% are students with special needs.

Diversity in Approach

SUNY charter schools are diverse in mission, program, and values. Some of our schools focus on specific themes (STEM, the arts, health and science, nursing) or programs (college prep, International Baccalaureate, vocational). Others serve unique populations such as students with autism, students who are at-risk, homeless / housing insecure, or bilingual. Each public charter school is granted the freedom to develop its own unique culture, program features, teaching approach, and calendar in exchange for higher standards of accountability.