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What is a Charter School?

A public charter is a tuition-free, public school that is independently operated from the public school district. These schools are typically smaller than the traditional public schools, which allows for more focused instruction time for students. The average student-to-teacher ratio in the public school system in North Carolina is 15:1. 


North Carolina's public charter schools are able to implement innovative and unique teaching methods to support student growth and development. As a result, the charter schools space has become quite diverse and have opportunities for all students, appealing to a variety of interests and learning types. From agriculture to the arts, technology to trades, NC public charters offer new ways for students to discover their abilities and prepare for the future.


For example, Ascend Leadership Academy is a digital media based charter school located in Sanford.  They focus on project-based learning and encourage students to use 21st Century Skills to solve problems in their community. Like all public charters, their program is specifically created to support their overall mission and the NC Standard Course of Study. All charter schools are required to participate in standard end-of-grade assessments in the same way traditional public schools do.



Public charter schools in North Carolina have grown rapidly in the past few years. In 1996, the Charter School Act allowed for up to 100 charter schools to be built in the state. By 1998, 34 charter schools had opened, and by 2010, there were 99.

In August 2011, the North Carolina Senate passed Bill 8, which removed the cap on the number of charter schools that could be built. The bill also lowered limits on enrollment increases and removed the restriction that charter schools could only enroll students in certain categories.

After Bill 8 was passed, the number of charter schools in North Carolina increased to 200 for the 2020-2021 school year. In 2012, 45,000 students were enrolled in charter schools. Since then, enrollment has increased by 270%, with around 122,000 students now enrolled in charter schools across the state

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Get the Facts

Watch this video to learn about 6 of the biggest questions people have about charter schools.

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