Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Considerations for Charter Schools

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Today's post is from a neighbor of mine, Stephanie. Stephanie is a mom I greatly look up to. I use the dentist she recommends, the preschool she loves...when Stephanie shares something she loves, I listen. I asked her to share what she loves about charter schools. Her three children go to one and she has also had the experience of teaching at a charter school. Here she shares what they love about charter schools.

A charter school is publicly funded but runs similarly to a private school. As you are decided how you want to have your child educated, charter schools are worth looking into. Here is Stephanie's perspective.

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One afternoon, a child from our neighborhood came over to do homework and play with my daughter. I looked at the friend’s math page and was shocked at the level of difficulty this child was performing. It did not seem overwhelming to her at all. This child was in the same grade as my daughter, but going to Thomas Edison Charter School. When I asked her about her math being so difficult, she replied, “it’s not hard, we learn a year ahead in math at my school.” Her casual response was shocking.

Having an elementary education degree, four year experience teaching and being a parent made me inquire more about this school that teaches with such high expectations. The very next day I observed several classes at TECS. My first impressions were astounding. Every student was facing forward, sitting up straight in their desks, with their full attention on the teacher. I observed that their attentiveness was a result of the teacher’s exciting lesson, quick and clear instructions, and numerous positive responses from the teacher. The students clearly understood what was expected of them and wanted more of the teacher’s praise. I randomly chose another class to “pop-in” to. I stepped inside and observed the same thing but with a different teacher and students. This happened two more times! It was obvious to me that it didn't matter which door I walked into next, the entire school was on the same page.

I met with the principal to discuss a few other questions I had. He informed me that it is NOT a private school. The school is a public institution but separate from the local school districts. The charter has a document stating the school’s philosophies, enrollment, curriculum, Governing Board structure, discipline, fiscal management, and student assessment which the Utah State Office of Education has approved. All students are accepted to this school. If there are more students than the grade can allow, new students go into a lottery.

After doing more research about the school, I enrolled my children. They quickly adapted to the fast pace, higher level curriculum and new friends. We are now going into our fifth year at TECS. My only regret was that we didn't start sooner.

Here are a few things I love about TECS:

1. Saxon Math. Saxon Math is taught a year ahead (first graders are learning second grade math.) When students enter fifth grade they have the option to jump another year ahead (fifth graders learning seventh grade math.) Saxon math is based on constant review along with new concepts. My children love math
because the daily reviews in homework make them feel successful.

2. Spalding. This phonics-based program teaches reading, writing, spelling and vocabulary. It uses visual, auditory and hands-on to reach all types of learners. It provides continual assessment of students so teachers can adapt lessons according to the needs of the students.

3. Homework. Yes, that’s right homework. Homework allows students to have one more chance at learning a concept. It also gives me the opportunity to see the skills that they are not catching on to. I don’t believe that a teacher is capable of teaching everything to everyone. Parents are responsible for their child’s education. The homework is consistent and students know what to expect. Homework folders and planners help students become organized and responsible.

4. Positive Discipline. All teachers and staff are trained in the philosophies of Dr. Glenn Latham. My children want the positive comments and feedback from their teachers and other school employees. This positive environment encourages my children to be positive with others.

5. Parent Volunteers. By enrolling in TECS, parents are strongly encouraged to donate at least 4 hours a month to the school. Parents are involved in classroom groups, class parties, library aides, lunch aides, assisting the teacher with preparations or correcting papers, etc. There is a way for every parent to feel
involved no matter what their schedule is.

6. The Arts. Although students excel in standard classes at TECS, the school keeps students well rounded by providing the highest quality art, band, orchestra and choir classes. There are many concerts and performances throughout the year.

7. High Expectations for Everyone. Along with students, teachers are held to a high standard. Teachers are required to continually assess students and adjust lessons to meet the highest level. If students are falling behind, teachers offer many tutoring sessions daily. Often, teachers will have after school clubs to catch students up to the class. This allows teachers to teach to the highest level. I appreciate that TECS does not “10 Year” teachers. Just like most jobs, our teachers and staff must earn their job each year. The administration is continually observing and providing feedback to teachers to improve the school.

I could go on and on with success stories and the things I love about my children’s school. If you are interested in a charter school, I strongly suggest you visit the school and do your homework. Each charter school has a different philosophy. Ask lots of questions and talk to parents whose children attend that particular school. Visit classrooms and other school events. You need to get a true feeling of the learning
environment.

I wish you the best of luck finding the right school for your child.

3 comments:

Janelle said...

In your opinion, what is the best way to "visit" the school? Is it best to make an appointment or just show up?

Janelle said...

In your opinion, what is the best way to "visit" the school? Is it best to make an appointment or just show up?

Plowmanators said...

Janelle, I like to just show up. I also like to be able to go to any class I like--not directed to classes because I feel like if I am directed, I am being sent to "the best."

I would call the school and ask if you can just show up or if you need an appointment. When I observed the charter school, I think I had an appointment for the first class, but then went to the other classes after that appointment was over just on my own.

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