Myth: Charter schools aren’t public schools.
Fact: Charter schools ARE public schools!
It’s a common misconception that charter schools aren’t public schools. In fact, all charter schools are public schools. They are tuition-free and run independently. Charters are afforded the opportunity for innovation and the implementation of best practices that not all schools utilize. Many employ a longer school day and school year, giving children more time in the classroom. Many also have a dress code that requires students to wear a uniform. But one thing they are not is private. They’re open to all. Admission is based on a blind lottery drawing from the pool of applications that are received.
All of New York State’s charter schools are public. But this week we’ll take a look at South Buffalo Charter School (SBCS) and what it does to help its students succeed academically.
SBCS has deep roots in the community and serves families throughout the city of Buffalo. It opened in 2000, and presently serves 799 students in grades K-8. South Buffalo has had three five-year renewals from its authorizer, SUNY’s Charter School Institute – an impressive record.
Learn more about South Buffalo and check out the students' video-making skills!
School leader Brian Wiesinger, who worked in a traditional public school setting for 24 years before joining SBCS, said, “We’ve had the opportunity to create an independent learning institution that can focus on strong core values and build a robust educational base.”
South Buffalo routinely outperforms the district on test scores, including on the most recent Math and ELA exams.
“We have a long history of outperforming the school district of Buffalo and also do well compared to a number of other charter schools. We offer a great choice for families,” Wiesinger told us.
He also said that the school has specific focuses in addition to academic rigor, which lead to its success. “We focus on technology integration instead of teaching it as a stand-alone. We focus on enrichment across grade levels and it reaches the entire population of students. We also place lot of emphasis on character education and respectful behaviors through a Positive Behavior Intervention and Strategies (PBIS) program.”
Demand at SBCS is high. There are more than 220 students currently on the waiting list.
There are other great things about SBCS. For instance, its staff has great diversity in experience and background.
“We have a seasoned faculty. We have some new teachers and some veteran educators. A lot of our teachers bring experiences from areas other than education. We are fortunate to have a well-rounded faculty and administrative staff.”
The school serves a special education population of about 12%. SBCS uses a consultant-teacher model, which Wiesinger said is the least restrictive model when it comes to special education and works well for their students. The school is growing its ELL population as well.
Wiesinger said he wants the public to understand the role that charter schools play in the educational landscape. He said, “We serve public school students like any other public school. We are lucky, though, to be able to operate independently and use innovative methods to reach our students in the best and most effective way in order for them to be successful in school and beyond.”
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