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About Charter and Contract Schools

These public schools are managed by outside operators, with decision-making over aspects of programming, budgets, and more. Together, City Schools' charter and contract schools give families more options for meeting students' needs and interests.

Enroll in a charter school

Most charter and contract schools are open to students from across the city, though a few serve specific neighborhoods. Families should ask at the school about the application and admission process. In most cases, if a charter school has more applicants than they can accept, the school will hold a lottery and randomly select students to enroll.

Find charter schools with our Compare Schools feature, and select "Charter" or "Other operator" under the Management Type filter. If you want to find charter schools with neighborhood zones, you can also select "Neighborhood" under the Enrollment Type filter.

Note: The application deadline for the 2019-20 school year was February 8 for most charter schools. Contact the school to see if they are still accepting applications.

Special information

Pre-k. Not all charter schools have pre-k, but those that do have a two-step application process:

- First apply to the charter school
- Then complete district pre-k registration process

Grades 6 and 9. As part of middle and high school choice, students in 5th and 8th grades get information about school options — including charter and other types of schools — and decide on the schools they would most like to attend the next year. Depending on the charter schools you're interested in for middle or high school, you may apply through the choice process or directly to the schools themselves.

Opening a charter school

The deadline to apply to open a charter school for the 2021-22 school year is Thursday, March 26, 2020 at noon. Applications received after this time will not be considered for review until the following year’s review process.

All groups who wish to apply for this year’s application round must submit a Letter of Intent by Friday, February 7 at noon. The letter of intent must include the name of proposed school, the grade band and enrollment of the school, a brief description of the proposed programming, and which area of the city the school will serve (if known). 

Technical Assistance sessions for applicants will be held at 200 E. North Avenue on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 from 4-5 p.m., and Tuesday, February 4, 2020 from 10-11 a.m. These sessions will offer an overview of the charter application and important details to remember when developing your application.

Current year application materials will be posted in the fall of 2019. Please check this page again at that time. Previous year’s materials are posted below for reference. When the current year materials are posted, any changes will be tracked in redline format. Call 410-396-8550 or email Trevor Roberts at City Schools' district office if you have questions about the charter application process.

Charter and operator renewal

Outside operators receive term-limited charters or contracts to run charter or contract schools, generally for three to five years. As part of the routine management of these schools, an evaluation (called renewal) conducted in the final year of the contract or charter leads to a decision on whether to renew the contract or charter for a subsequent term. 

The process

The Charter and Operator-led Schools Advisory Board reviews the following to inform the renewal recommendations it makes to City Schools' CEO:

  • Information provided by the school's operator in its renewal application
  • The renewal rubric and report
  • Data prepared by City Schools
  • School effectiveness reviews

These materials and the advisory board's recommendation are summarized in a renewal report for each school. (Find reports linked on schools' profile pages.) After review by the CEO, renewal recommendations are presented to the Board of School Commissioners for further review. According to policy, the Board may then vote for full renewal (another five-year contract term), partial renewal (a three-year period) or not to renew the operator's contract or charter.

Criteria and measures

Maryland law and Board policy establish criteria for renewal. Contract and charter schools are evaluated on multiple measures including, but not limited to,

  • Student achievement — performance on state assessments, growth measures, unique indicators, and fidelity to charter (accounting for at least 50% of the renewal score)
  • School climate — attendance, suspensions, enrollment, graduation and dropout rates, student choice data, and school survey results
  • Financial management and governance — annual audits, budget submission, grants management, and board documentation
  • Effective management — academic programming for special student populations and compliance with laws, rules, policies, and regulations
Improving the process

The Renewal Stakeholders Working Group (including school operators from a range of school types, City Schools staff, and representatives of the Maryland Charter School Network) met regularly in 2011-12 to advise on development of a fair, transparent, and rigorous evaluation process and rubric to reflect the unique nature and contributions of schools with outside operators. Since that time, district staff confer with key stakeholders following each renewal period to identify areas in which the process could be strengthened while also maintaining a level of predictability for schools up for renewal in the following school year.