One of the best parts of my job is getting out of the office and into the community. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all-girl charter school in Gwinnett County, GA. As I toured Ivy Prep, hallways lined with college banners, neatly uniformed students, and eager eyes fixed on instructors within the classrooms seemed more like scenes from a private school. However, through the unique culture of Ivy Prep--with its mantra “Believe. Achieve. Succeed.”-- young ladies are educated with extra time in the classroom and attention to personal growth--all without tuition costs.
Wait, but what is a charter school??
Charter schools--independently operated learning institutions--are in many ways similar to traditional public schools. Funded by the state, charter schools are held accountable for meeting the same academic standards as public schools and are non-discriminatory as to who may attend. Unlike the traditional setting, however, charter schools possess more control over the curriculum they teach and often adopt innovative learning models. With a wide variety of offerings such as STEM focused programs or single gender settings, charter schools can provide alternative options aligned to kids’ interests and learning styles.
More than 2.3 million students now attend charter schools, according to a recent report. However, the trend has been slow to gain the attention of many Latinos. At Ivy Prep, despite the large Hispanic community surrounding the school, only 7% of the student body is Latino-- compared to 82% of students who are black.
If you are considering alternatives to traditional school settings, here are some tips for deciding if charter schools are a good fit for your child:
Aundrea’s Tips for Interviewing Charter Schools
- Do your research: There may be more charter schools in your area than you realize. Focus on schools that offer classes that provide extra support to your kid in subjects they excel in or require more attention.
- Sit in on a class: Many charter schools are glad to open their classrooms to observing parents. Seeing students engaged in the learning process will help you in decide if the school is a good fit for your child.
- Ask to see test scores: Much like asking for a background check, schools’ test results--such as CRCT scores--can provide a good indication of the success a particular education model has had. Checking scores will also alert you if the school is failing.
- Ask other parents: Talk with other parents about their experience with the school. Be sure to include questions about challenges they faced and what sets the school apart from others.
The buzzing academic atmosphere at Ivy Preparatory Academy served as a great introduction to charter schools for me.
Still, charter schools face obstacles no different than traditional public schools, such as tight budgets and raising low educational attainment. For parents exploring alternatives to traditional school settings, doing your research and raising your hand to ask the questions about what charter schools can offer is the most important part of selecting a positive learning environments for your student. So be thorough in your interviews.
An education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.
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