Is a Charter School Right for You?

Is a Charter School Right for You?


Is a Charter School Right for You?

Alternative schooling possibilities are becoming more prevalent in cities, large and small, all across America. Even though the concept is not actually new, the proliferation of magnet schools, charter schools, private facilities, mentoring opportunities, even joint secondary/college curriculum is enough to set a parent’s head spinning. With the abundance of choices comes a parallel confusion.

Choosing What’s Best

Every parent has to make a decision based on knowledge of each child’s personality, needs and strengths. In some ways, the options are more clear-cut in cases of special need or disability, whether physical or in terms of learning styles. But, even then, choices can be difficult. Mainstreaming and special education in public school situations varies widely in different locales, and can be exemplary or less than satisfactory depending on the circumstances and the individual situation. Parents and professionals must monitor progress, assess needs and consider finances to make wise decisions.

Myriad alternative options have been implemented, since colonial times, and today there are more choices than ever before, including the growing popularity of home schooling.

Schools of Choice, Last Chance Schools, and Remedial Schools are the labels attached to alternative options by Mary Ann Raywid, who wrote a synthesis in 1994 that still holds true today.

Whatever the school, however, the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network lists key elements of successful programs, among them a teacher-student ratio of no more than 1:10. Other exemplary elements for success are, among others:

* A small student base, ideally no more than 250
* A caring faculty
* A clear code of discipline
* High Expectations
* Individualized Instruction
* A Flexible Schedule with Community Support
Community can be defined as the school community, or the neighborhood or municipality, but involvement with the world apart from school is viewed as an advantage. That is one of the reasons, logically, that many private schools have instituted a community service component in the curriculum.

No matter what the setting, respect for the school community and for the individual participants in the program is always stressed. Many charter schools also foster a multi-disciplinary approach to learning and encourage interaction between grade levels, much like the one-room schoolhouses of early America.

Goals for education at all levels are to ensure opportunity for the children; goals for many alternative schools include reducing truancy and behavioral problems, improving attitudes, maximizing benefits and assuring access to quality advanced education.

So, what is right for your child? Only you can decide.