School Choice

School Choice

by : Tiffany Tunnell
posted on : 4/27/2015 4:58:39 PM

One of the most important decisions a parent can make is their child’s education. Traditionally, families looking for quality education would move into neighborhoods with top rated public schools so their children could get a good education at a nominal cost.  During the past decade, however, there has been a rise in parents pulling their children out of their local schools and instead opting for newly formed Charter schools, some of which require commuting.  Perhaps you even have friends or neighbors who have jumped ship and have wondered why these families have made this choice.

To understand the change, we must first consider some background information.  In 1994, the Arizona Legislature created the first state-funded Charter schools which were established to give parents greater academic choices for their children.  In recent years, Arizona has expanded on these choices by allowing students to apply for admission to any public or charter school based on available classroom space.  Many parents have embraced these choices and Arizona’s charter school system has blossomed, now representing over 30 percent of the state’s public schools and serving about 17 percent of all public schoolchildren.

Before considering making any educational switch, given the impact this decision will have on your children and their future, it is important to be well informed.

Here are some little known facts about Charter schools:

  • Charter schools are Public schools, but they are governed by a contract (also known as a Charter).   The primary difference between a Charter school and a traditional public school is that Charter schools are governed by a private group, business, or organization (most non-profit) and, as a result, have a little more freedom from state and local rules. Similar to public schools, Charters cannot discriminate students upon entry, but they can have wait-lists and lotteries to keep class sizes small.
  • Like public schools, Charters receive state funding, generally based on enrollment levels. Currently in Arizona, Charter schools receive roughly $1,500 less per pupil than Public schools. Unlike public schools, Charter schools can borrow funds from lending institutions, and can also access private grants and funds available only to Charter schools, like those offered from the AZ Charter School Incentive Program.  In addition, Charter schools have more freedom to spend funds as they see fit within their organization.
  • Charter school contracts are short-term and are re-evaluated based on school performance. In Arizona, Charter schools are given a 15 year contract that is reviewed every 5 years. During the review period, Charter schools can be closed down due to poor academic performance, mismanagement, or financial issues.  According to The Center for Education Reform, “ 15 percent of charters across the U.S. have been closed for cause.”
  • Charter school teachers do not have to be certified by the state of Arizona. In Public schools, Arizona teachers are required to pass a subject knowledge and a professional knowledge test, in addition to required academic coursework to become certified. The tests are designed to ensure the applicant has the necessary knowledge to teach. Charter school teachers do not have to pass these tests and each Charter determines the qualifications necessary for hiring staff members.

With many big name Charter schools to choose from (Basis, Legacy Traditional, Great Hearts Academy, A.A.E.C., Trivium Archway Academy, Crown Traditional and various Montessori schools), it is important to keep in mind that no two Charter schools are alike. Most offer “their approach” for fixing the problems within the education system and each generally tries to offer a more appealing educational choice for students.
Charter schools often center around a goal or classification such as College Preparatory, S.T.E.M, and Fine Arts just to name a few. They generally, but not always, strive for stronger, more rigorous academics and offer a wider variety of programs and activities that appeal to parents. Before enrolling your child, consider the following:

  • Charter schools generally deal with less red tape than regular public schools and potentially have more opportunities to be innovative, but do research the school.
  • Not every child will thrive in College Prep, Fine Arts, Montessori, or S.T.E.M. programs, (which are the top chosen Charter programs) but many parents seek out these schools due to their non-traditional offerings or smaller class sizes.  Look closely at the curriculum and programs offered and decide if those truly meet the needs of your child.
  • Public schools work under stricter state guidelines and are controlled by Political policy. Unlike Public schools, many Charter schools deal less with radical curriculum changes. While many public schools faced a lot of issues this year caused by changes in Common Core, many charter schools noticed no changes.
  • Charter schools don’t automatically produce better academic results than regular schools. According to The Center for Public Education, “Only 17% of charters performed significantly better than the traditional public school, while 46% did not do significantly better or worse.” Ask friends, neighbors, or community members to give you honest feedback about any school you are considering and how it may or may not have worked for their family or friends.
  • In addition to their web sites, nearly all Charter schools offer Open House or informational meetings at least annually.  This allows interested families to gather information, tour the school, and meet the staff.

Whether you choose public, charter, or private school for your child, MathRise® believes in providing specific, targeted lessons in short learning sessions. This, paired with homework specific to the lessons, has shown amazing results!  With One-on-One Learning that is student centered,  everything at MathRise® is customized to the individual needs of your child, while homework serves to reinforce mastery and promote independent learning.

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