Why we chose a charter school (and a local school)

I was asked on Facebook today, as part of a larger discussion, why we chose a charter school. I didn’t want to reply too quickly because there were a lot of reasons. I thought I’d throw it up on here too, maybe more for myself to reference back to, but also for any else wondering why someone would.

As I’ve been working on the answer, I’ve realized that I’m not answering that question. The question I’m answering is “Why did you leave the local school?”

We’ve changed schools twice in Douglas County School District (DCSD). We have been very thankful for the great choice provided by the State of Colorado and available in DCSD.

Here is why we left the local school:
* Unresolved bullying. While DCSD supposedly is zeo-tolerance the truth we’ve found is that in most cases bullying is dealt with by blaming the victim or by sweeping it under the rug. We also found the school was two-faced in dealing with us and the bully’s parents (telling each different stories). We’ve had kids at four DCSD schools – two were horrible in regards to handling bullying, one has been great (shout out to Sand Creek Elementary, specifically Chris Smith and Robin Fender), and at our Charter we like what we’ve discussed but haven’t had an issue yet (and hopefully won’t)
* Poor communication. The middle school we were at was very poor at communication. Expectations on communication went one way and not the other.
* Unfriendly front desk – the front desk was sometimes very rude and that doesn’t make you feel welcome. We understand that one of the biggest problems with education is the parents, but you should still treat everyone nicely.
* Too big – we always felt like our daughter was just another number being pushed through the middle school.
* Bad teachers – some of the teachers were not good, but I’m guessing had tenure. At our charter this year, they had a problem, they dealt with it quickly and the teacher was fired. No wasting undue time and money on it.
* Good grades, good CSAP score, not good learning – While our daughter was getting good grades and passing tests, we didn’t feel she was really learning and retaining the knowledge. When she entered STEM we found she was behind where she should be on math (though we also attribute this to Every Day Math used in the elementary schools.)
* Paying for the bus. We had to pay to bus our daughter to the other side of Highlands Ranch, past almost every other middle school in Highlands Ranch. (The part about paying for it I now like to call Mr. William’s Hipocrisy, but that’s another story about politics and honesty.)

So, now I’ve talked about why we left our local school. I should quickly cover why we chose Sand Creek Elementary and STEM.
* In talking with the administration it was clear that their values and way of dealing with bullying was not just recital of the DCSD policy. It was a true discussion with real understanding of the issue, and solutions.
* In both cases the location was also key. Both are closer to home than the “local” school. DCSD really needs to re-draw the school lines and quit worrying about whining parents. In fact we were looking into Littleton Middle and High Schools because they are closer with equal or better education.
* Quality was obviously a key. We wanted to know our children would get a good education and these schools fit that bill. While we have to accept Everyday Math at our elementary we knew we would have a hard time avoiding that, so some sacrifices are obviously made, as in most life choices.

We have made trade-offs in picking a charter. There are many things they don’t have as part of the main curriculum like sports and music; however, they do provide them as extra-curricular at a cost. I should point out that Physical Education is part of the curriculum, and we feel that is very important.

The following are a couple problems I see with education in Douglas County and Colorado:
* Personally I think adminstration is a huge problem and waste for the counties and the whole state. Local control is good, but public education is driven at the state level – put all the administration there with local control at the school level and fund more teachers.
* Completely redo tenure. It should take at least 3-4 years to be first be considered for tenure and attaining it should require some type of vote (administration, teachers, and parents)

I wish I had more time to proof-read and add my thoughts right now, but I’ve got other things to do! I hope this was helpful. Please post any questions or comments you might have.

Some people will use this as a chance to blast the school district and teachers. In fact that would be deceptive and wrong. There are problems, but I’m happy my children go to school here, and I love that we have school choice. The way to change things is not to take away and strip down, but to find the good and spread it out.

-Jed

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6 responses to “Why we chose a charter school (and a local school)

  1. Jed, I have a quick question. What if you could not get into a Charter School? What would you have done then?

  2. We were looking into Littleton Schools, and would have moved our children (middle/high school aged) to Littleton schools. They have very good schools too, and in fact some good ones just as close or closer than the Highlands Ranch schools. It would have been less expensive for us to drive to a Littleton school than drive to, or have our children bused to, our “local” Highlands Ranch school.

  3. Jed -Colorado is now leading the way for removing tenure by way of a new Senate Bill (191). Now the problem will be, why in the WORLD would any sane human being go into teaching? The pay is terrible, the responsibility is huge, I could lose my job and pay if a child does poorly on a test. I watched a kid push buttons (the letter B over and over) and finish a test in 10 minutes. (MAP testing) thinking to myself, well there goes that paycheck! How do you make a kid care about testing? NCLB didn’t leave children behind, BUT it watered down our curriculum and “dumbed down” our kids. Now for some reason the teachers are to blame, as we scramble to catch up to the world that has passed us in every part of the curriculum. Senate Bill 191 is a way of “weeding” out bad teachers. But I promise it will also make a crisis in teaching as we are a SMALL part of a child’s education. It starts at home with active parents. But with this bill the load will be passed solely to a teacher. I know of 5 GREAT teachers leaving the “business” completely saying: It is JUST not worth it anymore.

    http://www.cde.state.co.us/EducatorEffectiveness/EvaluationAndSupport.asp

    • Hi Mora, I believe that tenure should be reformed. As to pay-for-performance – I like the idea, but I do realize there are a LOT of challenges if (IF!) it is to be implemented properly. Pay for performance has problems in most every professional industry (at least in mine – IT), we can’t help that, but I have to think there is a way to do it reasonably and in a way that only negatively affects the bad teachers. I refuse to believe that can’t happen (and I hope I’m correct). The vast majority of our children’s teachers have been great, and we have to find a way to pay them fairly (currently I think teacher pay is far from that) and weed out the poor ones, at least as best we can, while keeping education something people want to be in. I wish there was a way to get rid of bad parents ;), I think many teachers would like that.

  4. Brad M. Wann

    Jed,

    I also have had to uproot my child from public school. She is now in Cyber and is on track to graduate at the age of 20. You made the right choice and caught it early. My family did not see it till it was too late.
    I too have been mistreated by administrators of schools and have been told to go to private by a public school principal. I do not have the money for that so Cyber is where we are for now. I have three children in public and one in Cyber. Elementary Education is top notch here in DCSD, something happens when they go to middle school. Especially if your children have any type of learning issues.

    I have worked for years attempting to understand and help. First I was told the problem was funding. So myself and another parent went after Lotto to fund education in Colorado. Well CEA would have none of that they had a line of teachers out the door against the Lotto for education and the idea died that day at the capital. The PTO groups did not like us because we were conservatives and were rude and hard to work with.

    We were frustrated and found ourselves loosing this battle. So in order to get people to listen we needed more like minded people on the BOE to see what we as parents were going through. I have spent three years working to better my child’s education in this great school district. We have assembled a BOE that will hopefully give us Choice and good competition within our schools. We are working at the State level to change the funding formula for education and hope to one day treat each child equally.

    Jed you may not be on the same side of the fence as I and that is ok with me. I just read your story and wanted you to know that you are not alone. You and I have the same goal in mind and that is to get our children a fair shake. Hang in there and keep up the good fight for your children.

    Brad M. Wann

  5. Just a final comment on tenure. In the state of Colorado, tenure only means that a teacher has ‘due process’ if he/she is asked to leave. There is no seniority, and DCSD teachers are at will because of several legislative acts of recent. If a teacher is not doing their job, and there is evidence to support that, they can be asked to leave. Please see the DCSD contract information on their website or DCFT website..

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