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.