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2:01 PM Mon, Sept. 24th

Choosing a charter school

Before enrolling your child, the Arizona Department of Education's Charter School Liaison suggests that you seek answers to several questions. They include:

• What is the school's mission?

Every charter school has its own. To find what it is, visit the school's founders. Also, attend a board meeting, school assembly and a class.

• What is the school's teaching philosophy?

View lesson plans, visit with teachers, review curriculum/marketing materials, observe a parent/teacher meeting.

• How will the school implement its instructional program?

Often, charter schools use unique ideas and methods. To learn if these are best suited to your child, consider the specific teaching techniques, materials, class size and teacher qualifications.

• Does the school meet its educational goals?

Check its Stanford 9 and AIMS scores plus other information on its annual report card at the Arizona Department of Education's web site, www.ade.az.us, or at www.greatschools.net.

• What is its organizational structure?

Charter schools operate in a variety of ways. Each has a governing board and a sponsoring entity, either the State Board of Education, the State Board for Charter Schools or a school district. They can be non-profit or for-profit corporations; still others have different structures.

Ask to see bylaws and articles of incorporation. Get a description of board members and their respective backgrounds. Review the school's charter and attend a board meeting.

•Who makes decisions?

Each school site makes its own decisions. Sponsoring boards have very little to do with daily charter school operations. Each school develops its own policies related to student discipline, personnel and attendance.

Ask to see policies and procedure manuals.

• What is the role of parents in charter schools?

Most schools provide opportunities for parental involvement ranging from volunteering in the classroom to serving on a site council. To learn more, look at the school's charter, attend parent meetings and observe classrooms with parent volunteers.

To obtain the brochure, "Finding the Right Charter School," contact Charter School Liaison, Arizona Department of Education, 1535 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ 85007, (602) 542-8264, or download from www.ade.az.us.