Alberta, Canada’s Secret: A Record of Success for Charter Schools

You may be surprised to learn that the province of Alberta, Canada has 13 charter public schools serving about 9,000 students. Perhaps more surprising is that Alberta’s chartering legislation passed in 1994, just three years after the first law passed in Minnesota. Alberta is a real pioneer! That’s why I was delighted to be invited by Dr. Garry Andrews, Executive Director of The Association of Alberta Public Charter Schools, to be keynote speaker October 29-30 for their board of directors meeting and the Alberta Charter School Conference.

The 13 charter schools (all association members) cover a wide geographic and demographic area which extends from Medicine Hat in the south to Valhalla Centre in the north (located at “Mile Zero” of the Alaska Highway). Six schools are in Calgary and five schools are in Edmonton or surrounding area. The mandate of each school is distinctive and innovative. See for yourself:

  • Almadina Language Charter Academy, Calgary: Recently recognized for its excellence in teaching English as a second language.
  • Boyle Street Education Center, Edmonton: serves “street youth” ages 14-19.
  • Calgary Arts Academy: offers an arts immersion curriculum.
  • Calgary Girls’ School: offers an all-female student body serving grades 4-9.
  • Suzuki Charter School, Edmonton: teaches Suzuki approach to academic, musical, and personal excellence in grades K-6.

Other schools focus on an inquiry-based, technology-rich program, traditional indigenous teachings, gifted education, character development, rural leadership, or “academically capable underachievers.”

Most importantly because chartering started over 20 years ago in the province, all charter schools are well-established—and are serving their families well! One school, Foundations for the Future Charter Academy, has over 3300 K-12 students on 7 campuses. They and other schools have thousands of names on their waiting lists. The current Education Minister of Alberta, David Eggen wrote to Association leaders prior to the conference: “Our children deserve the best education we can deliver, and charter schools play an important role in offering innovative and enhanced learning options for Alberta families.”

So, why after 20 years of quality chartering, does Alberta have only 13 charter schools? And why hasn’t any other Canadian province followed suit? Check out Thursday’s blogpost.