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What Is a Charter School?

Everything parents need to know about charter schools in the Delaware Valley

Philadelphia resident Michelle Reed was frustrated by her local public school. Confusion about districting, a lack of teacher communication and a tendency to “pass my older son along any time there were concerns” about his ability to grasp material eventually led the mom of three to consider educational alternatives. 

Matthew Goodwin was an A/B student when he attended public school in Camden as a kid. Yet when he started college at Arcadia University, he had to take developmental classes because he was reading only on a 6th-grade level. So as a dad, when he noticed that his son Tamir, now 16, wasn’t being challenged in Camden’s public schools, Matthew decided to take action.

When Genesis Lyons was ready to start Kindergarten, her mother Tahira wasn’t sure the local public school was the best fit. Even as a toddler, Tahira reports, Genesis showed an artsy side and seemed to “think outside the box.” The New Castle mom considered private school but was wary of the tuition expense. So she researched and networked, talking with neighbors and other moms in line 
at the grocery store, to learn as much as she could about her choices. 

What do all three of these parents have in common? They eventually chose to send their children to a local charter school.

What is a charter school? That's the question we answer in this comprehensive feature, including an in-depth list of area charter schools. Because the charter school landscape differs greatly by state, we've separated the story into three parts: Philadelphia and its suburbs, Delaware and South Jersey. Click on your state to learn about the charter school option in your area.





South Jersey


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