National School Choice Week is a weeklong event which exists to highlight the importance of school options, including magnet schools, private schools, online schools, and charter schools.
As a charter school authorizer, it’s no surprise that I believe in the charter bargain—that increased access, accountability, and autonomy can lead to improved outcomes for our children. To say that my family has fully embraced school choice is an understatement. My five children have attended all different types of schools, including a charter school, traditional public school, private school, magnet school, alternative school, and a BOCES school.
My family made the decision about which school each child would attend based on what would be the best fit for each of them. Without question, this decision complicated our lives as we continually had to figure out how to transport each child to and from school, sometimes across town, while working our full-time jobs. We’re now down to only one child at home: our 8th grader who attends a magnet school. The commute is about 45 minutes, and it is only manageable because we are fortunate to have a network of parents that share carpool duties.
So is all this driving around town really worth it? Hands down, without a doubt, a resounding YES! I adamantly believe that school fit is critical to a child’s success. I have seen a school environment and culture bring my child down to a level of desperation. I have also seen a school environment and culture allow that same child to soar academically and emotionally. Choosing a school is a very personal process, and the benefits of finding the right fit are worth the effort. Research shows that school choice can lead to greater opportunities for student success. I had always believed in the power of schools to change students’ lives, and I have personally witnessed the transformative impact schools had on each of my own children.
One of my children had an extremely hard time finding the right fit and therefore consistently struggled at school. After a crisis, I knew something had to change and committed to finding a new school for my son. After a few months of attending various school tours and informational meetings, he found a school that sparked his interest. I was stunned as I watched him morph from the student dreading and disengaged from school to an extremely motivated student. During the first parent/teacher conference, the teacher told me that he was a top notch student who was a perfect fit for this school. Our child was beaming, excelling, and had rediscovered his love of learning. As we listened to the teacher, tears of joy filled our eyes. We explained that he had experienced years of failure at previous schools, and the teacher looked absolutely shocked. How could this be the same student? Our son continued through schooling successfully and developed unbelievably strong relationships with his teachers. This school will always have a very special place in my heart.
My youngest child also experienced an amazing turnaround in her attitude towards school and her motivation to succeed when she started attending a magnet school in 6th grade. I’m truly grateful for her school every day. And so we drive, sit in traffic, and stress about getting to school on time.
I could go on about school choice has positively impacted each of my children. It is my hope that every family can find the right school fit for their child and will have the resources to get to that school. I also hope that our communities will support and celebrate the choices they have in education.