What is a Charter School?

What is a Charter School?

In the current debate on educational policy in America, the charter school system has taken a front-and-center seat. But not many people understand how a charter school works, or what makes a charter school a charter school. In fact, the findings from a recent PDK/Gallup Poll survey on the public’s attitude toward education showed that a significant percent of those surveyed did not understand the charter school system at all. According to the poll, nearly half (48%) of respondents did not know that charter schools are public schools; another 57% thought that charter schools charged tuition, and nearly half of those surveyed thought that charter schools were allowed to teach religion. All of these beliefs are false when it comes to charter schools. So what is a charter school, and why all of the buzz?

What exactly is a Charter School?

A charter school is a public school that is independent of the local school district. Instead of being subject to local school district control and oversight, a charter school is governed by a “charter” or a legal agreement which outlines the rules and requirements of its operation, as well as expected outcomes and performance measures. Charter schools are approved and evaluated by non-profit accreditation organizations which are responsible for measuring performance, from test scores and graduation rates to financial management of the school. These same organizations determine whether or not the school gets to keep its charter and remain open every 3-5 years, on average.

How is a Charter School different from a Public School?

A charter school is often thought of as a hybrid school system. Charter schools are similar to public schools in that they receive federal and state funding, do not charge tuition, must teach a secular curriculum, and may not discriminate against any student. However, charter schools have more flexibility than public schools in how they teach, the qualifications of the teachers they hire, and the participation requirements imposed on the families that choose to attend the charter school.

Nina Rees, head of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, also pointed out in a recent NPR interview differences in funding and transportation for charter schools as compared with public schools:

“On average, charters receive 30 percent less per pupil, per year compared to traditional public schools. That gap is due in large part to the fact that charters don’t have access to the same funding streams [like school construction bonds] that traditional school systems have to build schools.

Transportation is another issue. [Charters] draw students from all over but we have to provide our own transportation, or parents rely on public transportation, because school districts do not make their buses available to charter schools.”

How is a Charter School different from a Private School?

Charter schools are similar to private schools (and dissimilar to public schools) in that students may elect to attend a charter school, and attendance is not based on where the student resides. Contrary to popular opinion however, a charter school may not turn students away any more than a public school could turn students away, based on a student’s disability or specialized learning need (e.g. English Language Learners). When a charter school receives more applications for enrollment than it has room for students, it must conduct a lottery for enrollment.

Are Charter Schools more effective than Public Schools?

The effectiveness of charter schools, as compared with public schools in the same markets, has been hotly debated, and difficult to measure. However, the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance conducted a study in 36 charter middle schools in 15 states and found some interesting effectiveness data. The participating charter middle schools all used a lottery system for student enrollment. The summary data showed that parent and student satisfaction with these charter middle schools were higher than parent and student satisfaction with the local public schools. In addition, the findings showed that students attending the charter middle schools in urban areas, as well as those serving high proportions of low-income and low-achieving students, experienced higher math test scores than students attending the local public middle schools.

As a parent, only you know what school environment is best for your child. If you believe that a charter school may benefit your child, you can find a list of charter schools in your area by visiting the Center for Education Reform or using this handy charter school locator tool from the National Charter School Research Center. Whether your child attends public, charter, or private school, Club Z! can help him/her excel in all subjects, from math and reading to history, foreign language, science, and social studies. For more information on locating a tutor, call 800-434-2582.

Students Honored through Club Z! Scholarship Award

Students Honored through Club Z! Scholarship Award

Since 2004, Club Z! has awarded more than $250,000 to deserving students in grades 5 – 12 through its Annual Achievement Award. This scholarship is funded in partnership between the Club Z! corporate headquarters and its network of 450+ franchisees throughout North America, and generally awards $25,000 or more each year through its fall and spring award periods. The Annual Achievement Award is unique in its design, which is to honor students for outstanding achievement, not just academically but also those who display strong character, achieve personal growth, demonstrate leadership in and out of the classroom, and face adversity with grace and perseverance. Now in it’s 14th year of administration, the Annual Achievement Award proudly gave top honors this past spring to students across North America, from Boca Raton to Toronto.

To be considered for the Annual Achievement Award, students must be nominated by their classroom teachers or coaches. The award applications are collected and reviewed at the Club Z! headquarters in Tampa, FL in the fall and spring. Each year, as the panel of judges reads the Annual Achievement Award submissions, they are overcome with the level of determination, hard work, and laser-like focus these student applicants show. As Amanda LeBleu, Club Z!’s Director of Franchise Support stated, “it’s always such an emotional process to go through the hundreds of applications we receive each semester. Narrowing the applicants down to our Grand Prize, Runner Up, and Honorable Mention recipients is no easy task. But we thoroughly enjoy getting a glimpse into the lives of these students, and helping to celebrate their accomplishments in some small way.”

Grand Prize award winner, Maria Linehan
Maria Linehan receives top honors with Grand Prize award from Club Z!

In May 2017, the recipient of the Annual Achievement Award Grand Prize was Maria Linhan , senior at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, IN. Maria plans to attend Hope College in Holland, Michigan this coming fall, and pursue a degree in Social Work. Local Indianapolis Club Z! franchise owner, Maggie Schilling [pictured at right: second from the left, with Linehan in front] was thrilled to be able to present the award to this talented student at a school, saying “Maria is a very sweet, hard working and deserving student!”

Evan Casalino receives Annual Achievement Award
Evan Casalino receives $1,000 Annual Achievement Award

The spring 2017 Runner Up recipient was Evan Casalino, junior at Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, NJ. Christine Ross, owner/Area Director of the Club Z! office in Bergen County, NJ presented Evan with a check for $1,000 to recognize his outstanding achievements [pictured at left]. Ross enjoyed meeting with Evan and his grandparents, who were all thrilled to receive the funds for school.

In addition to the Annual Achievement Award funding that is provided by the Club Z! corporate office, Club Z!’s franchised offices also fund local awards to ensure that there is a greater opportunity to recognize these deserving students. One student recipient of a local Annual Achievement Award scholarship wrote this thank you note to the Club Z! franchise owner in Manchester, NH, “I am a Manchester Central High School graduate and the recipient of the $100 Annual Achievement scholarship from Club Z. Thank you, Mrs. Lisa Becotte for considering me for the scholarship. I am very humbled to be the recipient. The money will be respectively used to offset college expenses.”

Club Z! pledges to continue the Annual Achievement Award tradition this fall, with the award opening August 1, 2017 and closing November 30, 2017. The fall award announcements will be made during the first week of December 2017. To obtain an Annual Achievement Award application, visit https://clubzaward.com.

Z Prep! Online Tutoring – Is It Right for You?

Z Prep! Online Tutoring – Is It Right for You?

Club Z! Tutoring has more than 20 years of experience providing high quality, one-on-one tutoring and test prep in the comfort and convenience of students’ homes. For many students, working in a comfortable home environment, free from the distractions of a larger group, leads to better results in a shorter amount of time. But online tutoring, when provided with live, direct instruction from a qualified tutor, can also be very effective, and provide immediate solutions to struggling students who just can’t wait for their next in-home tutoring session. Enter: Z Prep! Online, Club Z!’s online tutoring and test prep service.

What is Z Prep! Online?

Z Prep! Online is the online tutoring and test prep division of Club Z! Our highly qualified Z Prep! tutors must meet all of the same stringent requirements as our Club Z! in-home tutors, including verifying credentials and degrees, relevant experience, and passing a thorough background and reference check. Each Z Prep! tutor works one-on-one using our online virtual classroom. Students can communicate with their Z Prep! tutor using the interactive white board in the virtual classroom, as well as video, microphone and/or written chat within the platform. All sessions are recorded in HD, which allows the student an opportunity to go back after a session and review an important concept, pull up notes steps to a difficult solution from the whiteboard screen captures, and more! Another benefit to Z Prep! online is that sessions can typically be scheduled within 24-48 hours of the request.

Z Prep! online works very well for students who are comfortable with a computer, and have access to high speed internet. Students can upload assignments, or use the built-in tools from the whiteboard to recreate difficult problems, or practice problem-solving skills. This is particularly effective for difficult homework assignments, quiz or test preparation, or when a student simply needs some additional reinforcement. Z Prep! online is very popular for science and math courses, as well as SAT and ACT preparation.

Z Prep! Score Booster – the Secret Weapon!

Z Prep! Score Booster is Club Z!’s online SAT and ACT diagnostic testing and video-based study tool. Students may be assigned anywhere from 1 to 6 unique ACT or SAT diagnostic tests, which can be taken online or printed for paper-and-pencil administration. Students receive instant feedback on their test performance, including videos with top notch tutors demonstrating the correct way to answer each and every question on each and every test, as well as access hundreds of additional video modules that dig deeper into the subjects tested on the ACT and SAT, and an extensive vocabulary building tool to help students improve reading fluency and better understand words on context, two major areas of focus for both the SAT and ACT.

“Not only do our students receive individualized test prep support in a 1-to-1 setting with their assigned tutor,” adds Cari Diaz, Vice President of Club Z!, “but now the student, and the assigned tutor, have access to a more detailed analysis of the student’s strengths and weaknesses, video modules to help drive home difficult concepts, multiple test-retest opportunities with the diagnostics to help improve speed and accuracy on test day, and a comprehensive vocabulary builder. It’s a real game-changer.”

The Z Prep! Score Booster is best utilized in conjunction with one of Club Z!’s proven test prep packages, but may also be available as a standalone service for students without a lot of time to prepare.

Is Z Prep! Online Right for You?

If you aren’t sure whether or not your student would benefit more from Club Z!’s in-home tutoring services or its Z Prep! online tutoring and test prep services, call 800-434-2582 today and speak with a Club Z! educational consultant. Find out what the technological requirements are for online tutoring, what grade levels and subjects are preferred for online tutoring, and even see a demonstration of our online tutoring platform or a free Z Prep! Score Booster account. Online SAT and ACT classes are forming now – for more information, including pricing and class dates and times, check our the Summer Prep page here.

Family Activities to Stimulate the Mind this Summer

Family Activities to Stimulate the Mind this Summer

Well families, we did it! We all survived another school year (cue mental rounds of applause and gratuitous pats on our own backs); and now glorious summer, with its warmer days and longer nights, is calling to our families for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. It’s time to reconnect with our kiddos, and enjoy some much-needed family activities together. Whether that’s taking a proper family vacation [check out our blog on the best spots for a family vacation] or enjoying a “stay-cation” at home, summer is the best time for recharging our bodies and minds. That doesn’t mean that we should let all of the hard work our kids put into this past school year go by the way side. There are plenty of ways to keep your kids’ brains active during the summer months! Check out this easy-to-implement list of summer family activities that engage the mind, from the experts at Club Z! Tutoring:


1. Learn a new game – this can be outdoors or indoors. Think chess, checkers or even go fish for younger kids. The point is to introduce them to new concepts, strategies, and rules, all of which keeps their minds stimulated!


2. Keep a journal – the journal can be topic specific (i.e. a dream journal, a journal detailing your children’s summer activities, or a journal writing short stories or poems) or it can be a run-of-the-mill-anything-I-want-to-write-about journal. The choice can be theirs! You can take your kids to a bookstore or even a general or convenience store to pick up an inexpensive spiral bound notebook and let them decorate the cover however they see fit.


3. Take up a foreign language – learning a new language together is a great summer family activity! It can be as simple as finding a dictionary of words in your language of choice, and committing to memorize certain vocabulary throughout the summer. Or you can take lessons as a family, such as the foreign language tutoring services offered by Club Z! From hola to au revoir, learning a foreign language can be stimulating and fun!


4. Go for a walk together – or a run, jog, skip, hike, bike…you get the point. Get outside and look for learning opportunities. Ask younger children to sound out the names of street signs. Ask older children to find 5 different species of flower and then research their names when you get home. Opportunities for learning are everywhere in your neighborhood!


5. Sharpen those math skills – math skills in particular have a tendency to weaken over summer without practice. So help your kids stay on their math game by making it fun! Quiz them while you’re driving in the car and offer a reward (whoever wins picks dinner for the night) for whoever provides the most correct answers. Give older children a chance to flex time-telling and subtraction skills asking them to solve math problems such as, “we’ll arrive at our destination around 5:30 pm (for example) and it is currently 5:15 pm, so many minutes of drive time do we have left?” Or let younger children help you with baking or cooking – there are ample opportunities to build their math skills through measurement, counting, and estimating.


These are only a few of the things you can do to incorporate learning into your summer activities. Be creative and look for opportunities to make it FUN!

Brain Games to Play in the Car

Brain Games to Play in the Car

For those of us who are hitting the open road this summer, with a car full of kids no less, activities that entertain (and stave off the endless “are we there yet?” questions) are a necessity! One easy way to keep your kids’ minds off the destination, and more on the journey, is to give them brain games to play in the car. Of course, kids are all-too-prepared with their tech toys – tablets, handheld gaming systems, DVD players, and the like – but why not encourage them to flex their brain muscles with some good old-fashioned family games using their 5 senses.


The quintessential road-trip game, I-Spy, requires one player to “spy” something in the vehicle, and the other players to guess what player 1 has spied. The players that are guessing can ask questions to clarify the item, or simply make guesses in a rotation. This game is best for players ages 5 and up.

The Alphabet Game

The Alphabet Game (also known as the Sign Game in some family circles) is one that can be played using billboards, vehicle signs, restaurant signs and signage from other retailers. Players compete against one another by calling out signs in alphabetical order until all 26 letters of the alphabet have been completed. Letters have to be at the start of a word on the signage to count, but it’s generally acceptable to count some letters (think: Q and X) even if they are found in the middle of a word. This game is best for players 7 and up.

The Counting Game

The Counting Game is a great game for your youngest players! Simply pick the item that should be counted (e.g. blue cars, signs from your favorite coffee shop franchise, white semi-trucks, etc.) and see who can count the most of that item before reaching your final destination. Players as young as 3 can generally play this game with ease.

For more brain games to play in the car, including games of memory, rhythm and rhyme, and music, check out this link to the Top 10 Road Trip Games from Edmunds.com.

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