Independent Charter Schools Aim to Elevate Their Status

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David Kelly and Iyonna Green, both 6th graders at Brooklyn Urban Garden School, tend to the school’s garden last month. Founded by community members, the charter focuses on teaching sustainability. —Alex Flynn for Education WeekWhat Is an Independent Charter?

Independent charter schools—sometimes referred to as "mom and pop" charters—are the oldest type of charter and they remain the most common. But with the rapid growth over the last decade in networks such as KIPP that draw vast resources from deep-pocketed philanthropists, their market share has been steadily shrinking. Without that same financial heft or the megaphone that comes with operating multiple schools serving thousands of students, independent charter operators say it's hard to get their message out.

But what, exactly, counts as an independent charter school?

The 5-year-old Brooklyn Urban Garden School, a middle school of about 300 students, is the epitome of an independent charter.

Created by a group of community members in the Windsor Terrace neighborhood of Brooklyn, the impetus for the school was twofold: Parents believed there weren't enough middle schools in the community. And those that did exist weren't very diverse. BUGS, as the school is affectionately called, set out to provide a new option for middle school and to be diverse. It has no racial majority and serves a large proportion of students with special needs. Environmental and economic sustainability are also infused into all parts of BUGS' curriculum.

Click here for the full article in Education Week.