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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 2020-21 school year is February 5 for most charter schools. Contact the school to see if they are 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 submit an application to open a charter school has been extended to Thursday, June 18 at noon. Despite the extended deadline, applications will go through the normal review process, including technical review for completeness and, if they pass, full review by the Charter and Operator-led Schools Advisory Board, district staff, and leadership before being voted on by the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners. Applicants should plan to submit 10 hard copies of applications, along with an electronic copy by the deadline as described in the application guidelines. However, due to the uncertain nature of the situation with Covid-19, we are also planning on contingencies for doing an entirely electronic submission and review process if social distancing guidelines do not allow for physical submissions. If an electronic-only process is necessary, that information will be posted on this page as soon as that decision is made. Please check back regularly for updates.

Updated application materials are posted below.  Materials that have substantive changes are posted in both clean format and redline format, which shows changes from the prior versions.  The application was updated in February 2020 to reflect the work City Schools has done in the past year around the district’s newly adopted Equity Policy.  City Schools is committed to providing quality educational options for students of all racial and ethnic groups and students of all levels of economic advantage and disadvantage throughout the city.  The changes are meant to give applicants the opportunity to speak to their proposals’ strengths in these areas.  Likewise, the application scoring rubric has been updated to reflect these changes.

In addition to the changes described above, the application lists priorities that the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners adopted in 2019.  Applications that reflect these priorities will be given additional consideration by the Board.  These priorities are:

  • Propose to convert an already existing underperforming school by operators with a track record of strong governance and financial management practices who have a record of improving student performance for student populations that are similar to the school they are seeking to convert and have a strong track record of leadership and staff retention. Additional consideration will be given for applicants seeking to convert a traditional high school which takes in students below grade level and provides access to rigorous content that prepares students for high school, college, and career.
  • Propose to replicate high performing charter programs in areas of the city where the model does not exist.
  • Propose advanced high school programming, such as early college high school in which students can earn an Associates's Degree as well as a high school diploma, International Baccalaureate program, or robust career preparation that meets an identified CTE need or provides programming similar to the P-TECH program.
  • Propose a dual-language or late language immersion program.

If you have any questions about the charter application process, please call 410-396-8550 or email Trevor Roberts at City Schools' district office.

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 the most recent reports linked on schools' profile pages and archived reports in the renewal report archives) 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.