School choice: Let go of the stress
If you’ve got kids – which presumably everyone reading this does – then at one point or another you’ve had to deal with the daunting task of picking the best school for your child. When I was a kid in Michigan in the 1960s and ‘70s this wasn’t an issue. You either went to your neighborhood public school or ponied up for private school. Done. Parents and students had no choice in the matter. So much has changed. In Colorado, students can attend any public school in the state if there is room available (which in the best schools is a very big “if”).
The argument in favor of school choice is that parents can pick out the type of school that will be the best match for their child and that a little competition between schools will boost performance and quality across the board. There is still much debate about the effects of school choice on the quality of public schools overall. Regardless of your views on this, choice is here to stay.
So, how do you pick the best school? Is it vital to understand your child’s learning style? How the heck do you understand how a preschooler learns? Is a 4-year-old who sorts peas into neat piles while dressed up as a fairy a kinesthetic or a visual learner? Is it ridiculous to even ask this question? In a way, yes. Turns out the latest research says there is no evidence that matching learning style with educational philosophy has any added benefit for the student.
However, there are some useful self-examination exercises you can do before you overwhelm yourself with school visits, analyses of complicated sets of school data and open enrollment meetings. You must first square up your own beliefs about education, says EdNews Parent expert and educational consultant Laura Barr. This is not about the Joneses. Read more great tips by Barr on EdNews Parent before the pressure of an open enrollment deadline is upon you. Then visit schools in person. Ask lots of questions. Trust your gut. Check out academic growth and demographic data on EdNews Parent’s Colorado School Data Center. And know that if you’re trying to get little Johnny or Debbie into the best public schools, the chances can be slim.
After going through much brain damage, our daughter ended up at our neighborhood school because she didn’t get into our top choices. You know what? It all worked out. She’s happy and learning. And we’ve become part of an incredible school community. There are pros and cons to every school. Remember that.
Guest blogger Julie Poppen edits EdNews Parent, a nonprofit-funded website and newsletter targeting Colorado parents that focuses on healthy schools, teaching and learning, and school safety. Poppen is a former daily newspaper journalist most recently with the Rocky Mountain News who has covered a multitude of school issues in Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver. She’s also the mother of a third grader and host mom to a teenaged foreign exchange student in Boulder Valley schools and regular – though not always perfectly proficient – classroom volunteer.