Some of the most important decisions you will make are about your child’s education. You want your child’s school to meet the same goals of high academic achievement you have set. You may want your child’s school to reflect the values of your family and community. In other words, you want to choose a school that is a good fit for your child. In an increasing number of communities in our nation, you now have the ability to do so.
Parents can exercise choice in many ways. The most common way may be in choosing where to live based on the public school district or neighborhood schools. In many areas, parents can choose from neighborhood schools, charter schools, or other public schools of choice, or transfer their child to another public school (in or out of district). They can also select a private school (religious or secular) or teach their child at home.
Why Should You Choose Your Child’s School?
No one cares more about your child’s welfare than you do. No one else will be more careful to see that your child is well educated and well treated in school. You know your child’s personality, strengths and weaknesses. You know the interests that light up your child’s eyes. You know the values that your family wants a school to respect.
Choosing your child’s school may also make you more confident that she will be taught effectively and treated fairly. Choosing your child’s school carefully is an important way you can help your child achieve all that he can be. This is a head and a heart decision. Don’t be afraid to heed your own informed and intuitive wisdom.
Different schools offer alternatives in teaching styles, content, and learning opportunities. Following are some types of schools you may find.
Many parents choose to send their children to the public school in their neighborhood, according to an assignment system developed by the school district. Attending a neighborhood public school can make it easy for your child to get to school, to work with classmates on group projects, and to visit friends. These schools are often anchors in a community.
You may want to investigate other public schools. In an increasing number of districts, you can choose to send your child to a specialized public school. These schools of choice often emphasize a particular subject or have a special philosophy of education. One school might emphasize science, art, or language study. Another might offer a firm code of conduct, a dress code, or a rigorous traditional academic program.
Another may be an alternative school designed to respond to students who are insufficiently challenged by the regular school program, who are likely to drop out, or who have behavioral or substance abuse problems. These schools, often small, work to make students feel they belong. Some states also offer second chance schools or clinics for students who have dropped out of regular schools and now want to complete their education.
Charter schools are public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Charter schools allow parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs, and others the flexibility to innovate, create and provide students with increased educational options. Charter schools exercise increased autonomy in return for stronger accountability. They are sponsored by designated local, state, or other organizations that monitor their quality and integrity while holding them accountable for academic results and fiscal practices.
Magnet schools are designed to attract students from diverse social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds by focusing on a specific subject, such as science, technology, or the arts. Some magnet schools require students to take an exam or demonstrate knowledge or skill in the specialty to qualify to go to the school, while others are open to students who express an interest in that area.
Advanced Placement and Int’l Baccalaureate Programs
Advanced Placement (AP) courses offer rigorous content, and at the end of a course students can take the national Advanced Placement exam. If they score well on the exam, many colleges and universities will grant college credit for completing the course. The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a program of rigorous academic courses. Students who graduate from the program receive an International Baccalaureate diploma that is recognized by colleges and universities throughout the world. Other students may choose not to take the full IB curriculum but pursue certificates in individual areas. Elementary and middle schools may also offer components of the IB program.
Religious Private Schools
The majority of nonpublic schools are religious. Many are affiliated with a denomination, local church, or religious faith such as Roman Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or other.
Secular Private Schools
There are also many nonpublic schools without a religious identity or affiliation. Some of these private schools are preparatory schools designed to prepare students for college. These schools often have a traditional or elite reputation and a long history. Other schools are based on a particular educational philosophy or approach to learning, such as Montessori or Waldorf schools; have a special education focus, such as schools for the deaf or blind; or have been established for families and children who may be dissatisfied with various aspects of conventional schools.
Homeschooling is an option for a growing number of parents. Some parents prepare their own materials and design their own programs of study, while others use materials produced by companies specializing in homeschool materials. Some take advantage of virtual school programs or other educational resources available on the Internet.
Of course, exercising this option may require major changes in how your family lives. Teaching your children at home is an ambitious undertaking, requiring time, planning, creativity, and commitment. Be sure to check with your state because different states have different requirements for homeschooling.
School choice can help give every child an excellent education. It is amazing what can happen when parents get involved. School choice gives you more opportunities to achieve your expectations for your child. Armed with options and information, you can be a powerful advocate for your child.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Education
For a selection of the region’s top preschools and private schools, check out Tidewater Family’s Go-To Guides: www.tidewaterfamily.com/guides.