By ANDREW R. CAMPANELLA
This National School Choice Week (Jan. 26-Feb. 1), I want to share with you one of the most common short-circuits that parents run into when choosing the right school for their child. That way, if you see it coming, you can run the other way.
It starts with a thought like this: “Do I, as a parent, really know best about my child’s education? After all, I don’t have a graduate degree in education. There’s a lot of school jargon I’m not sure about. Should I let more equipped people make the calls about where and how my child is educated?”
I understand the tendency to think that way. But I work with tens of thousands of school leaders around the country — the “education experts” — every year, and here’s what I believe:
You know your child better than anyone else. You are the expert on your child as a whole person — how they learn, experience the world, and what they’re passionate about. You are best positioned to help your student find the learning environment where their unique self will be cared for and inspired. Nobody is more invested in your child’s happiness than you.
The biggest mistake you can make as a parent is not recognizing that power you hold. Not only are you best equipped to make choices for your child’s education, but it can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do! When a parent finds a learning environment where their child’s potential is unleashed, it can mean the difference between that child finding success and confidence or feeling like a failure.
Change that starts with parents is the single most powerful way to improve education in California. Seek advice and use research, certainly, but also believe in your instinct and expertise as a parent. Around the country there’s evidence that, when we make it easier for parents to choose, they do make good choices for their child’s education. We’ve seen the positive impact accessible school options have had in places like Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and more.
In California, there are a variety of educational options available including: traditional public schools, charter schools, online schools, magnet schools, homeschooling, and private schools. Parents of students who are assigned to low-performing schools may be able to transfer their children to another school in their district or outside their district, based on the state’s limited open enrollment laws. Also, while California does not have a state-run scholarship program, privately run programs may be available.
School choice is the starting point for better schools, where families are personally invested and there is a strong human connection and open communication between parents and teachers. When students learn that learning is something to be excited by, invested in, and challenged by, that shapes their perspective for life.
During this year’s National School Choice Week, parents, students, and educators in California will participate in more than 2,868 events and activities, celebrating all types of K-12 education and sharing knowledge with each other. It’s also a celebration of parents recognizing their power and choosing to be involved in their child’s education. This week, realize your power as a parent and start thinking about what learning environment can best inspire your child to happiness in the 2020-21 school year.
— Andrew R. Campanella serves as president of National School Choice Week, the world’s largest annual celebration of opportunity in education. He lives in Miami, Florida.