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Charter plan hurt but carrying on

Education minister Gary Mar has promised that the unique experiment with charter schools in Alberta will continue despite his decision to close the Global Learning Academy and reject plans for a Charter School of Commerce in Calgary.

Charter schools - similar to grant-maintained schools in England and Wales and the 1,000 American charter schools - were first formed in Alberta in 1994 to "provide a catalyst to enhance the education system as a whole".

They are part of the public education system, but their teaching and administration is free of local board of education control.

Helen Raham, of the Society for Excellence in Education, said: "Charters amount to performance contracts given to parent groups, which undertake to run schools that will provide the options that parents want (such as a focus on fine arts or core curriculum), but are not available in the regular school system. If, after three or five years, student performance does not meet the charter's expectations, the charter can be revoked."

The education minister said he decided to revoke the Global Learning Academy's charter because the school had failed to provide the promised "differentiated learning" plan in which "everyone is encouraging everyone else's learning, " and because of factionalism on the board of governors. An auditor is investigating allegations of financial impropriety.

Dr Joe Freedman, who has led the drive for charter schools, said that the events at GLA have damaged the movement.

The proposal for the Charter School of Commerce turned down by Mr Mar had already been rejected by the Calgary Public School Board, which questioned its business focus.

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