NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Alberta Charter Schools Provide Choices

July 25, 2001

Alberta is Canada's only province with charter schools -- autonomous, publicly funded schools organized by like-minded parents and educators to provide choices for their children's education. Over a five-year period, 12 charters have been approved and 10 remain in operation.

Based on an in-depth, two-year study, researchers say Alberta's charters illustrate how well schools of choice can address the needs of a diverse community within a public education system.

  • Three of the charter schools offer a back-to-basics program that emphasizes teacher-directed learning, highly structured learning environments, strict discipline and parental involvement in their children's learning.
  • Three others offer a more student-centered approach, emphasizing differentiated instruction for the diverse learning styles of students and the needs of self-directed or motivated learners. Two of these three schools cater to gifted students.
  • Science and technology is the focus of one charter, and another is based on the Suzuki method of instruction and emphasizes an arts-enriched program.

The remaining two charters focus on students and parents who frequently feel marginalized by the public schools, according to researchers:

  • Boyle Street Co-op Education Center offers an educational program focused on life skills and job readiness to street-involved dropouts.
  • Almadina, an inner-city charter school, caters to students from a variety of minority groups, many of whom are recent immigrants who require assistance with learning English.

According to surveys, 83 percent of charter school parents volunteer in their children's school, and 82 percent intend to have their children remain in a charter school. Parents express high satisfaction with the quality of teaching, the safe and caring environment, and the academic challenge their children receive. They uniformly report that their charter school is better than the previous school their children attended and that their children demonstrate improved academic performance, self-confidence, and satisfaction in their learning.

Source: Lynn Bosetti (University of Calgary), "The Alberta Charter School Experience," in Claudia R. Hepburn, editor, "Can the Market Save Our Schools?" (Vancouver, B.C.: Fraser Institute, 2001); Fraser Institute, 4th Floor, 1770 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6J 3G7, (604) 688-0221.


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