Q. What is a charter school?
A. A charter school is an independent public school created and designed by citizens from the local community. Charter schools are tuition free. In Pennsylvania, charter schools are possible due to a 1997 revision to the public school code known as Act 22 (the "charter school law"). Each charter school has a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment and ways to measure success. This performance contract is typically between the charter school and the school district in which it operates. Additional information about charter schools in PA is available from the PA Department of Education. Information about school choice and charter schools in general is available from the PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools and The Center for Education Reform.
Q. What is Collegium Charter School?
A. Collegium Charter School was founded in January of 1999 by a dedicated group of West Chester residents led by Bill Winters, Anne Rich, and Beth Jones. The founders’ goal was to open a school that provided an educational choice for families offering strong academics as well as programs not readily available in the local school districts. On September 29, 1999 the school opened with 39 students in kindergarten through sixth grade attending on its first day. The second year saw tremendous growth; over 500 students enrolled in kindergarten through seventh grades. Current enrollment tops 2900 students in grades K-12. Collegium has six school buildings in Exton’s Oaklands Corporate Center.
Q. How is a Pennsylvania charter school funded?
A. Charter schools are tuition free for families. A charter school receives funding from the school districts where its students reside. Typically, 75-80% of the student's home school district's per-pupil allotment follows the student from the home district to the charter school. This means that charter schools operate with less public funding than traditional public schools. Additionally, charter schools must fund facilities (a lease or purchase) from their operating budget, as opposed to raising taxes. Fundraising is a significant component of Collegium’s Home and School Association.
Q. Who granted Collegium's charter and when was it granted?
A. Collegium's charter was first granted on Sept. 29, 1999 and Collegium began operations with the 1999-2000 school year. Collegium’s charter has been continually renewed by the West Chester Area School District and is currently valid until February 28, 2017. The current renewal, a five-year renewal, is the longest renewal period permitted by the Pennsylvania Charter School Law.
Q. What is Collegium Charter School’s mission statement?
A. The Collegium Charter School Community will work tirelessly to ensure the brightest possible futures for our students, to nurture them, to empower them to recognize in themselves uniqueness and talent, to instill in them a firm academic foundation, critical thinking, and respect for diversity, to foster in them scholarship and responsibility, and to develop in them the desire for a lifetime filled with optimism, generosity, character, and confidence. Our goal will continually be to prepare each student for the rigors of college life, and to hold ourselves and our students accountable for our mutual success.
Q. Who can attend Collegium Charter School?
A. Collegium is a public school open to all students residing in Pennsylvania. Most of our students come from the West Chester, Downingtown and Coatesville school districts.
Q. Are there age requirements for attending Collegium Charter School?
A. Yes. Kindergarten students must be five (5) years of age on or before August 31st of the entering school year. New 1st grade students must be six (6) years of age on or before August 31st of the entering school year and must have completed an accredited kindergarten program. Exceptions will not be considered.
Q. How do I enroll?
A. All answers to questions regarding enrollment, the enrollment lottery process, and our waiting lists are posted on the New Student Enrollment page of our website.
Q. What are the goals and objectives of Collegium Charter School?
A. Collegium offers a unique and distinctive learning opportunity for its students. Our specific goals are:
- To prepare our students for the rigors of college academics.
- To provide an excellent public education.
- To teach children to be competent in reading and writing, skillful in mathematics, knowledgeable in history, science and the arts, and well instilled with the intellectual aspects necessary to succeed in mainstream contemporary culture.
- To provide a safe learning environment.
- To prepare students to be creative, intuitive, and analytical thinkers.
- To promote a sense of personal accountability in students and help them to become good citizens at school and in the community.
- To promote active participation from parents in their child’s education (parents have a volunteer commitment of 2 hours per month).
- To promote a sense of community between parents, students, faculty, and administration.
Q. What is the educational overview of Collegium Charter School?
A. Collegium utilizes a variety of techniques:
- Collegium has curriculum for each grade level and subject that aligns to, and in many cases, exceeds the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s standards. Collegium utilizes a variety of instructional materials from educational publishers along with teacher-developed materials.
- Information technology is an everyday part of the educational landscape at Collegium. iPad labs are available for student and teacher-initiated class use. For elementary students, Collegium provides a bank of networked, internet-accessible computers in each classroom, as well as a computer lab. Elementary students also have a weekly technology class. At the MS/HS level, networked, internet-accessible computers are available for individual student use or teacher-initiated class use. There is a technology lab where technology classes and electives are held and a bank of computers is available in the library for student use.
- Collegium provides explicit phonics instruction in conjunction with a strong literature component utilizing both classical and multicultural literature. In our Middle and High School, Writing & Grammar is a separate Language Arts class from Literature, providing dedicated class time to the acquisition and practice of the distinct skill of writing.
- Collegium provides Spanish language instruction for each student beginning in kindergarten.
- The Collegium school day is 7½ hours.
- The Collegium school year is approximately 195-200 days, as opposed to the traditional school year calendar of 180 days. Typically, our school year begins in mid-to-late August and ends in mid-to-late June.
- Collegium kindergarten students attend a full day of school.
- With parental input, Collegium teachers (grades K-5) create an annual Personalized Education Plan for each of their students. This plan serves as the framework for differentiating a child's instruction to meet his/her needs.
For more information about Collegium’s educational program, visit the Curriculum page on our website.
Q. How is student performance evaluated at Collegium Charter School?
A. Collegium students are evaluated using a variety of methods:
- CCS-developed and standardized assessments are administered in each major subject area every 5-7 weeks. Our assessments measure how well a student is acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to progress in that subject.
- Standardized tests.
- Portfolios of completed work.
- A minimum grade of 70% is needed to pass and earn credit for a course.
Q. Does Collegium employ Pennsylvania certified teachers?
A. Yes. All of Collegium's teachers are PA certified. In accordance with the Pennsylvania Charter School Law, 75% of a Pennsylvania charter school's professional staff must hold appropriate certification.
Q. How are teachers evaluated at Collegium Charter School?
A. Collegium teachers are held accountable for student performance and are evaluated as follows:
- Teachers undergo formal and informal evaluations by Collegium administrators.
- Collegium parents complete surveys to assess the school. Results are used to determine areas of strength, areas needing improvement, and scores are incorporated into the teachers’ annual bonuses*.
- Teachers are assessed on improving student performance as measured by annual standardized tests.
- Teachers are required to continue their education through graduate level course work, conferences, and continuing education programs.
*CCS teachers are eligible to participate in an incentive bonus plan that rewards excellence in education. CCS teachers’ annual salary increase is merit-based; there is no teacher pay-scale as is found in traditional public schools.
Q. How is Collegium Charter School governed and managed?
A. Collegium is overseen by an independent Board of Trustees. The Board is not affiliated with any local school board, government body, or commercial entity. The Board, working closely with CCS administration, has the ultimate responsibility to determine general, academic, financial, and personnel policies in accordance with Collegium's by-laws, the Pennsylvania Charter School Law, and federal and state laws. Reporting to the Board is the Chief Executive Officer who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school and who makes policy recommendations to the board.
Q. Is bus transportation offered to Collegium students?
A. Bus transportation is the responsibility of each student's home school district. Buses are provided, by a student's home school district, for those students whose home school district's closest boundary is within 10 miles of Collegium. For more information detailing Collegium’s involvement in providing transportation, please visit the Transportation section of our website.
Q. What are some of the additional unique features of Collegium Charter School?
A. Collegium is unique in many ways:
- Collegium students wear school uniforms.
- Recognizing self-accountability is integrated into all aspects of Collegium.
- The Collegium Student Code of Conduct is strongly enforced. Discipline problems are not tolerated.
All information provided in this list of Frequently Asked Questions is subject to change depending on state and federal laws and Collegium policies and procedures.