Glossary of Terms

Reinvigorating the Pipeline: Insights into Proposed and Approved Charter Schools

School Models

Note: This is not a comprehensive list of all models coded. It only includes models included in the report.

In general, a school’s model was classified using the taxonomy created by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and used by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.[1] In some instances, schools received multiple model codes only if each was central to the school’s educational plan.

General: A “general” school does not fit into any specialized coded category. 

Alternative/Credit Recovery: An “alternative” or “credit recovery” school serves students who are not well-served in traditional school settings. Often, these student populations need to regain credits to graduate on time or at all.

Arts: An “arts” school has a scsdfshool-wide focus on the arts (e.g., fine arts, drama, dance, music). Arts are a central focus of the school; not just a range of extra-curricular options. Includes STEAM schools which offer a combined Arts and STEM focus.

Blended/Hybrid: A “blended” or “hybrid” school employs a combination of online and classroom learning. Students spend part of the day in class receiving direct instruction from a teacher and part of the day engaged in online learning. A blended school must have a brick-and-mortar facility. Online learning needs to be a significant part of the model; use of the terms “personalized learning” or “blended learning” alone are not sufficient.

Classical: A “classical” school is rooted in the teachings of Plato, Socrates, and other thinkers of western civilization. The curriculum is grounded in the liberal arts (e.g., logic, rhetoric), and often includes the study of Latin or Greek.

Diverse by Design: A school that is “diverse by design” purposely promotes equity by ensuring that the school is racially, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse. There must be a sense of intentionality: the school makes a conscious effort to improve diversity through recruitment, school design, etc.

Early College: In an “early college” high school, students take both high school and college classes, earning an associate’s degree or multiple years of college credit in addition to a high school diploma.

Gifted: A “gifted” school is one designed for academically gifted and talented students. The school may have an accelerated curriculum.

Inquiry-Based: An “inquiry-based” school has a firm commitment to inquiry-based or project-based learning models (sometimes referred to as “progressive” or “child-centered”). Its entire academic program is based on learning by doing. Many schools may use project-based learning in a limited way, but an “inquiry-based” school revolves around this type of approach. Approaches such as project-based learning, student-centered learning, inquiry-based learning and/or expeditionary learning are central to the academic program; includes Montessori, Waldorf, Steiner, and Expeditionary Learning models.

International/Foreign Language: An “international” or “foreign language” school has a focus on global culture, but above all the school includes a foreign language component at the center of its mission.

Military: In a “military” school, all or most students are involved in military training for part of the school day (beyond ROTC extra-curricular). Students often wear uniforms, but uniforms alone are not sufficient for a “military” school classification.

No Excuses: A “no excuses” school has high expectations for all students and a goal of 100 percent college attendance. There is usually an extended day and/or school year and an increased focus on English Language Arts (ELA) and math instruction. The school often has a strict behavioral code with uniforms and highly structured rules and procedures. There may also be a focus on a strong school culture, with reference to core values (“grit,” “persistence”), parent/student/teacher contracts, and respect.

Public Policy: A “public policy” school has a central focus on social justice, public policy, citizenship, civics, law, or social justice.

Single Sex: A “single sex” school is intentionally organized by sex, either across the school or in part of the school, to facilitate learning. This might apply to one group within a school (e.g., the middle school is single sex, but the high school is co-ed).

Special Education: A “special education” school is designed with supports for students with intellectual disabilities and/or special instructional needs.

STEM: A “STEM” school has a school-wide focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM is a central focus of the school; the school doesn’t just offer STEM-focused extra-curricular options. Includes STEAM schools that offer a combined STEM and Arts focus.

Virtual: A “virtual” school delivers its curriculum entirely or almost entirely online; in-person interaction between students and teachers does not occur. The school may have a “learning center” where students may visit infrequently to complete their work; however, all work is student-led and any teachers or facilitators at the facility do not provide instruction.

Vocational: A “vocational” school has a clear focus on providing students with practical, career-related skills that will help them transition from school to work, and often the opportunity to earn an industry credential along with a high school diploma. Other schools may mention workforce readiness or CTE, but a vocational school actively trains students for certain trades and professions through apprenticeships, hands-on training, work study programs, etc.

Charter Operator Type

Education Management Organization (EMO): The application is affiliated with a for-profit organization that manages charter schools. The applicant is often a nonprofit entity (that may or may not already operate schools) that contracts with a for-profit organization. 

Charter Management Organization (CMO): The application is affiliated with a nonprofit management organization. This includes applicants affiliated with an existing nonprofit management organization, applicants already operating at least one school at the time of submitting the application (either in or out of the state where they are applying), and applicants currently operating one school that describe a plan to create a management organization if approved.

Freestanding School: The applicant is a new operator at the time of submitting the application and does not describe a plan to contract with a management organization.


Community Partnership: This term applies where the application includes evidence (beyond a general letter of support) demonstrating that the school is affiliated with, or plans to partner with, any local, community-based organizations. A donation (either in-kind or monetary) may constitute a partnership. The community-based organization may help with the ongoing implementation of a program or service. This does not include colleges and universities associated with dual enrollment.

Philanthropic Support: This term applies where the applicant has received or is slated to receive private donations or philanthropy of at least $50,000. Charter schools are eligible to receive federal funding (e.g., Title I funds, Title II funds, IDEA funds). For the purposes of the analyses presented, philanthropic support does not include federal dollars, nor does it include federal grants from the Charter School Program. In general, it also does not include resources provided by a management organization (CMO or EMO).

Incubator: An “incubator” or “supply builder” refers to a nonprofit organization (e.g., the Fisher Fellowship, Building Excellent Schools, other local incubators) that trains school leaders to design, found, and lead high-performing charter schools. School leaders often receive this training as part of a fellowship.

Additional Report Content: Reinvigorating the Pipeline