Could a charter school be the right choice for your child?

Monise L. Seward, M.S. is the CEO and Founder of Millenium Scholars Academy, and has graciously accepted my invitation to discuss the relevance of charter schools.  Take a moment to educate (or refresh) your mind on the options that charter schools provide.  I invite you to read Ms. Seward's perspective, and post your questions and comments fo her right here.  She welcomes the opportunity to help us understand just how important a charter school experience can be to our quest as parents for the best route for our child.  Visit www.msak12.org for more details.

As public education endures more scrutiny, accountability standards, and diminishing funds, school choice has moved to the forefront in the minds of many families. While some people have enjoyed school choice through private and parochial routes, many other families do not have the luxury of adding the expense of private education to their household budgets. Given the current state of our country's economy, it is my opinion that many more families will be seeking free, school choice options for the next school year. As a parent and former educator, I fully support and believe in charter schools for a number of reasons.
 
1. Today's schools have become too large to effectively and efficiently address the diverse learning needs of our children. As previously stated, schools are now facing intense scrutiny to ensure that all children meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as mandated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Do you believe it is probable that a school with 2,000+ students will accurately identify and meet all their students' needs? In my opinion, it is virtually impossible, yet our schools continue to grow and the district is slow to update its plans to accommodate the growth.
 
2. Many teachers have felt the pressure of "teaching to the test" instead of just teaching. Children are not taught how to think, but instead how to memorize data and regurgitate facts. This does not constitute learning. Furthermore, when children graduate from high school and enter college, they are expected to be able to do more than recite facts. Today's colleges are more competitive than ever; students must bring more to the admissions table, so to speak. It is important for students to have exposure to a variety of subjects, cultures, languages, and art forms. Instilling strong character, academic excellence and sense of community in our children is equally important.
 
3. Control of the classroom needs to be returned to our educators because they need to be able to reach student, regardless of learning style, economic status, zip code, native language, etc. When one is forced to cover topics A-Z in a short period of time, those lessons inevitably lack creativity, generalizability (transferring skills to other subjects), and are usually forgotten once the test has been taken. The resulted is wasted time for educators and students alike.
 
4. Parental involvement is an important factor in a child's academic success. For one reason or another, not all parents are able to actively participate in their child's education. Many parents work long hours, there may exist a language barrier, or some parents have been out of school for so long that they do not immediately recognize or understand the material. These circumstances often lead to a breakdown in communication between home and school or a perceived 'us versus them' attitude on the part of teachers, parents, or both. Now, more than ever before, it is imperative that schools and families work together, as parents provide vital background information on their children and schools can provide invaluable resources for parents to help their children. Most charter schools require parents to volunteer a prescribed number of hours each year that their child is in attendance. In an effort to accommodate parents' schedules, charter schools typically hold events on weekends and even allow grandparents or other relatives to volunteer in the place of parents. Using this model ensures that a family member remains a visible presence during the child's educational career.
 
I say all of this to let parents know that you do, in fact, have options; however, it is up to all of us to exercise our right to school choice and roll-up our sleeves to make it happen. After this year's election was officially called, I said to myself: "If Obama can become president, I can certainly open a charter school!" I also acknowledge the fact that I need the support and assistance of other parents who are concerned about the state of public education today. Instead of complaining about what the system does wrong, let's take our collective energy, resources, and intellect and channel them so that we can get it 'right.' Most of us have children who are too young to advocate for themselves or even understand the importance of voicing their opinions. They are counting on us to what is right and in their best interests.

Let's take the momentum of this election and use it to our advantage. Let's use each other as resources. Let's motivate our neighbors, friends, and family members to take a more active role in their children's education. We cannot leave this up to chance. We cannot assume that because we live in an 'affluent' community that our children's needs will be met. We need to make our voices heard...not tomorrow, not after the new year....but today!
 
Millennium Scholars Academy (MSA) has been a project of mine since the summer of 2007. I have devoted countless hours to researching and developing the plan for this unique school model. To date, we have 123 student enrollment commitments...we do not open until 2009! That shows some parents are ready for a change and want more for their children. If you, or anyone you know, is looking for an education alternative (free) for your children next year, I strongly encourage you to visit our web site: www.msak12.org and review our school model, curriculum, and other programs we plan to offer. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me via email: mseward@msak12.org or phone: (770) 329-3273.
 
Thank you for taking the first step--reading this blog in its entirety!
 
Sincerely,
 
Monise

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