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Style Magazine

A Choice Education

Aug 02, 2011 11:40AM ● By Style

As a parent, you have many options available when it comes to the type of school your child attends.

From public to private, charter to homeschool, you can choose whichever type of school best meets your son or daughter’s personal learning style and academic needs. Maybe he excels academically or needs extra attention in certain subjects; perhaps she prefers the arts or the sciences; or, possibly she’s interested in getting a head start on college classes. The reasons for selecting one type of school over another range widely. We asked a representative from various school settings to answer questions on his or her personal experiences with each learning environment.

What unique opportunities does each respective school offer students?

Public: “With confidence, I can say that public school teachers in our area are highly skilled, exceptionally trained, and extremely dedicated to all students’ learning,” says Superintendent Richard Pierucci, Roseville City School District. “We do not control who walks through our school doors and we embrace all students of every variety of background and skill level. Public schools are a microcosm of our society; students learn to interact with and learn from experiences with students of all backgrounds.”

Private: “The private school system provides an arena that caters to each individual student and their learning needs,” says Armaghan Mirhaj, associate administrator for Golden Hills School in El Dorado Hills. “Due to smaller class sizes, greater parental involvement, and various extracurricular choices, the students receive a complete education in a small and safe environment. Aside from academics, we also focus on building character and positive citizenship within our students . . . and we offer various enrichment courses that further enhance their educational experience.”

Charter: “Our charter school is actually a public school that is part of the regular public school district,” says Principal Sylvia Shannon, Gold Oak Arts Charter School in Placerville. “It provides an alternative to those students who are more successful in a different environment than a typical school. Our charter is highly academic; however, we do feel that having an arts emphasis and being more projects-based allows those students to flourish where they might not in a traditional public school. We try to expose the students to the experience of across-the-board arts, including visual, performance and visiting artists.”

Homeschool: “One-on-one education, for one thing,” says Julie Yoder, mom and teacher of Zack, 15, who was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at 21 months. “We had him in a regular class until first grade and saw he couldn’t keep up with peers, so we started to homeschool. Now, there are no distractions and he’s at grade level in everything. It is still a public school education done through a charter school called Visions in Education. We have to meet with a certified teacher every 20 school days, meet state standards, do STAR testing and follow curriculum. I can go with the curriculum they suggest, or if I find something more appropriate that meets the standards and better fits his learning style, then that can be approved. It allows us to really personalize the education. For example, I can use videos or audio to supplement the textbook materials.”


What are the current challenges for students and teachers that might not be present in other types of education?

Public: “Well, certainly budgetary issues have been a big challenge for public schools in the past few years. We also are challenged to meet the needs of our English learner population and students with identified special needs. We have a very fast-growing population of preschool-aged students with special needs that we are responsible for educating. A majority of these students are on the autism spectrum. Funding for meeting special needs students is very deficient from both the federal and state levels, yet the accountability to school districts is very high,” says Pierucci.

Private: “Private schools must maintain consistent enrollment in order to provide a continuous quality education. To maintain our enrollment, it is critical that we maintain our high academic standards, smaller class sizes and enrichment opportunities to ensure that parents are satisfied with the educational program that is being provided and, thus, will continue to make the personal sacrifices necessary in providing a quality, private school education for their children,” says Mirhaj.

Charter: “I think the challenges in the charter, for us, are pretty much the same as what’s hitting all of our schools right now. With budget and funding cuts we have to make bigger classes, even at the charter level. Meeting those same standards and making sure our kids are succeeding and becoming the best they can be with less resources at hand is our biggest challenge,” says Shannon.

Homeschool: “Our relationship has improved because when he was younger he couldn’t communicate very well about his school day, so I felt like I had no idea what he felt or was doing, but now I always know. Our main challenge though, is that he has trouble with my teacher voice, which can be stern, and he doesn’t always differentiate well between my roles as mom and teacher,” says Yoder.


How does your school best prepare students for future education and/or the workplace?

Public: “Students in public education learn to work and play with children who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Developing these social skills help to prepare students for assimilating in the world around us as they continue to grow and develop,” says Pierucci.

Private: “Private schools are able to provide opportunities for their students that, unfortunately, many public schools cannot, due to severe budget cuts and the elimination of various enrichment/support programs. Therefore, students attending private schools experience a more well-rounded education where they partake in classes that further their growth and extend their educational experience…this provides our students with choices and exposure to various programs so that they can make appropriate decisions for their future educational and career choices,” says Mirhaj.

Charter: “I think that oftentimes the charter school brings in parents who are looking for something other than a traditional classroom. Different ways of teaching reach different kids and it depends on the student and where he or she is most successful. Charter schools have a little bit more freedom and flexibility to use alternative teaching methods,” says Shannon.

Homeschool: “When you’re in 11th grade, kids in homeschool can take community college classes, so I think it helps keep kids who are excelling in school to not have to wait for other kids to keep up with them. Also, there is a special option through our homeschool program called EDGE, which is more of a technological education for independent study at the high school level. It’s research- and project-oriented, rather than just working out of textbooks. The idea is to get students prepared for 21st century technology, so that kids are learning how to use online programs,” says Yoder.


More Q & A with each of the school representatives...

From your personal experience in education, what would you like to add to the discussion on varying types of schools?

Public: “I am a very strong proponent of public education. I believe that the educational experiences provided to our citizenry through the public education forum is the foundation of our free democratic society. Without a well-educated populace, the essence of our democracy is compromised. While many are strong supporters of charter schools, charter schools do not have to "play by all the same rules" of public non-charter schools. Neighborhood public schools provide a social and cultural need that enriches our communities and develops pride in our citizens,” says Pierucci.

Private: “Aside from academic subjects, students also experience character education, which reinforces the importance of being a good citizen and provides the students opportunities to help their community and the outside world. All parents are strongly vested in the school, which further enhances the strong community bond and the family-feel that exists at the school. I value the strong parental commitment and involvement to the school, the strong sense of community and the dedication of the faculty to all the students. We are truly a “family” committed to the utmost well-being of all of our students,” says Mirhaj.

Charter: “My only experience with a charter has been here. I’m a product of the public school system with my administration and teaching career. What I’ve really seen though, is that it provides an excellent alternative for students who might have been floundering in a traditional school. The charter has given the ability to provide that alternative for those kids who need it,” says Shannon.

Homeschooling: “So many people tell me that ‘I could never do that, it would be so overwhelming,’ but I found that it was easier because you know what your child is doing during the school day, so it makes doing homework a little easier. So, for parents who are worried about their relationship with the child, you end up getting into a nice flow because you know what they need to work on and you build a rapport,” says Yoder.