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A Charter for a Lifetime of Education
Source: Janine Sterling   

EPAPA is a district approved charter school and is part of the Aspire network of schools. Charter schools are publicly-funded schools that are allotted greater flexibility and autonomy in implementing different teaching methods and philosophies to fit the needs of their community but are held strictly accountable by the state for student progress. A charter school operates according to the terms of a charter, or a license to operate, that has been approved by a local and state Board of Education.

Nationwide, charter schools serve over 1 million students, 67% of which are located in urban areas. California, with 574 charter schools, leads the U.S. in charter school openings.

In 2004, EPAPA joined the network of charter schools managed by Aspire Public Schools. Aspire is a Charter Management Organization (CMO) operating 21 schools in California. Through our partnership, we have been able to provide a consistent, high quality academic program to our students, share teaching best practices, and receive support for staff development, budgeting and finance, legal and human resources issues.

Charter Schools FAQ



What is a Charter School?
A charter school is a public school that has been given freedom from state education regulation and bureaucracy. In exchange, the school must be accountable for student achievement and fiscal solvency. The "charter," a license to operate, is granted by the local school district, county office of education, or state department of education.

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Are charter schools private schools?
No. Charter schools are public schools. Many aspects of Aspire's education design (e.g. small schools) sometimes remind people of the quality of education in many private schools. Unlike private schools, Aspire public charter schools do not charge tuition or have admission requirements.

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Do charter schools take money away from public school districts?
Charter schools are funded by state, local and federal funds at the same level and in the same way that non-charter public schools are.

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How is Aspire different from other charter schools?
In the decade since the first charter legislation, most charter schools were founded and run by a small group of parents or teachers who wanted to serve a particular neighborhood in a particular way. These stand-alone schools were created by brave, determined and sometimes seemingly super-human individuals. Because it's so hard to start a charter school, it makes sense for mere mortals to work together with others who have complementary areas of expertise. Increasingly, many of the new charter schools are being started by "charter management organizations" (CMO's): organizations that establish and run multiple schools. Aspire is widely considered the leading not-for-profit CMO.

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Do Aspire schools have a theme?
Aspire's small schools all have a college-preparatory focus. Currently, most of our schools do not have a particular theme or subject specialization such as technology or visual/performing arts. Our Oakland secondary school, Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy, does have a theme of "social entrepreneurship" that is woven throughout the curriculum.

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Are there any admission requirements?
Aspire Public Schools have NO admission requirements. Any student who is a California state resident is eligible to enroll.

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Does Aspire charge tuition?
As a public school, Aspire does not charge tuition.

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How big are Aspire schools?
Aspire schools are small, so that individual students are personally known and students do not "slip through the cracks." Elementary schools (grades K-5) are about 360 students; secondary schools (grades 6-12) are about 400 students.

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What are the average class sizes at Aspire campuses?
Aspire schools have a student: teacher ratio of 20:1 in grades K-3, and 28:1 in grades 4-12. In addition, secondary students spend part of their day in classes with ratios as small as 15:1.

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Does Aspire have a school uniform policy?
Most Aspire campuses, including EPAPA, do have uniforms. However, each school community determines whether a uniform policy is appropriate for their school.

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» Interested in enrolling into EPAPA?