As we begin the first full school year with broad access to AI, many in education are grappling with its impact on student work. While charter schools must also wrestle with these questions, there are also many opportunities to leverage large language models to enhance instruction or develop new models of education delivery.
Charter schools, which were established to serve as centers of innovation, are in a position to be on the forefront of AI-supported learning and leverage their autonomy to improve outcomes for students. Charter schools are a natural conduit to channel the potential of AI not only because of their autonomy to implement unique programming, but also because they have the accountability structures in place to ensure AI is used thoughtfully and ethically.
The charter schools highlighted below are pioneering the use of AI in different ways in a variety of school settings:
1. Da Vinci Schools, a network of charter schools in Los Angeles, have used AI to develop a personalized learning tool. Project Leo is a learning platform designed with input from students and teachers that “gives students the freedom to build projects that truly inspire them while getting feedback from teachers, professionals, and peers throughout the process.” The Project Leo learning experience centers around students taking ownership of their own learning by designing a project aligned with their interests and passions, sharing updates, and soliciting feedback from their teachers and peers along the way.
2. Kūlia Academy, a self-identified data science and AI project-based learning charter school, is scheduled to open in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi next year. The school will serve students in grades 6 through 12. Its one-of-a-kind curriculum introduces students to computer science in grade 6, data science in grade 7, and artificial intelligence in grade 8. A critical component of its curriculum involves engaging students in the ethics of AI. The school hopes to prepare students to compete with global talent for hi-tech jobs.
3. Optima Classical Academy is pioneering a virtual reality school. The Optima Foundation, which operates three brick-and-mortar classical schools in Florida, now also operates a virtual reality academy. Optima Classical Academy allows students and teachers to use virtual reality headsets to attend school as avatars in a wide variety of educational settings, ranging from the seats of a traditional lecture hall to the depths of outer space. Responding to parent demand for full-time remote instruction following the pandemic, school leadership felt that the virtual reality setting allows Optima Classical Academy to implement its classical curriculum in a groundbreaking way that responded to families’ needs.
4. Provident Charter School operates two schools in western Pennsylvania. Established to serve students with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences, Provident Charter School serves students struggling with a reading disability by ensuring that both the “challenges and gifts of dyslexia are deeply understood.” To this end, Provident Charter School is partnering with LUCA.ai to create highly personalized reading solutions for students and families. Further, Provident Charter School is offering a course based on MIT curricular resources that allows students to “explore AI and its far-reaching societal impacts in our world.”
5. ASU Prep Academy, located in Arizona and chartered by Arizona State University, offers a variety of models, including microschools, pods, and a range of in-person to remote program offerings. ASU Prep Academy is partnering with Khanmigo, Khan Academy’s AI-generated chat bot teaching assistant, to enhance learning experiences for students. Designed to offer students support in the areas of math, science, and humanities, Khanmigo’s platform even allows students to have AI-generated conversations with historical and literary figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Hamlet.
This profile of exciting new programming emerging in charter schools is by no means exhaustive, but it shows how a handful of charter schools across the country are using AI to create new types of learning environments. The National Alliance remains eager to see how the use of AI evolves across the charter school sector in the future, and we are confident that charter schools will continue to be at the cutting edge of this work.
Katie Burke is the senior director of policy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.