NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Charter School In Princeton

May 5, 1999

Princeton, N.J., which has some of the best public schools in the state, now has a charter school. Parents in the university town founded the school two years ago because they were dissatisfied with local public schools. It is one of 39 schools opened in New Jersey since the state passed a Charter School Act in 1996, allowing the creation of public schools that operate independently of local districts.

Even a member of the school district's board sends her two children to the charter school -- complaining that the public schools have a "vague" curriculum, some mediocre teachers and "no specific program for academic excellence."

  • The new school -- which will eventually grow to include kindergarten through eighth grade -- now has 119 students in the third to seventh grades, with about 50 children on waiting lists for each grade.
  • The school building and surrounding five acres were purchased by 30 parents who signed a note guaranteeing the loan -- and are described as believing "in educational choice."
  • Teachers for the fifth through seventh grades must have degrees in the subjects they teach, instead of just the general education degree required by public schools -- and are backed up by the town's vast pool of academic achievers who volunteer.
  • Results of a standardized test given nationally to independent schools showed that sixth and seventh graders at the Princeton Charter School made three-school-year gains in writing and mathematics last fall, compared to the prior year.

The school maintains classes in chess so that children can learn to think logically and sequentially -- skills that can help in other classes, such as math and reading.

Source: Maria Newman, "In School," New York Times, May 5, 1999.


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