I moved and struggled to find the right schools for my children
By Donna Fletcher | 1/17/2018, 1:08 p.m.
As a parent, I recognize that I am my children's biggest advocate and I work hard to make sure that they have the best learning opportunities inside and outside of the classroom.
When I relocated from another state, I struggled to find schools that were rigorous in their instruction, included strong community and parental involvement, provided a diverse selection of extra-curricular activities, and offered the support services my children needed. Eventually, I found a school that met the majority of my expectations, but that school was located in a different county. As a result, I relocated to an address within that area. With a background in education and familiarity with my children’s previous school through my older children, I constantly found myself comparing the materials being taught at my children’s elementary school to the lessons that were taught over 15 years earlier. To my chagrin, my younger children were lagging far behind, academically.
Therefore, my search to find a more rigorous academic program led me to placing my younger children in a private, Christian-based school. However, I have found that while private schools promote a superior academic experience, in actuality, they lack more than they deliver. Academic rigor, community and parental involvement, extracurricular activities, and the passion needed to encourage the love of learning were all missing from the private school my children attended. Thus, my search continues.
The new national education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), gives more power back to states to determine their own academic standards, but provides several grant opportunities to ensure school districts are implementing evidenced-based interventions to improve academic achievement. Student Support and Enrichment Grants combine several programs from No Child Left Behind to improve academic achievement by providing all students with funding for improved school conditions, well-rounded learning, and efficient use of technology. Title IV, Part B of ESSA also provides opportunities for communities to expand or establish community learning centers, which provide a broad array of resources; including meaningful parent engagement.
The current place we moved to has updated its academic standards in an attempt to align them with college-and-career-ready expectations twice, since 2011; the most recent update occurred in 2015. However, their ESSA plan does not explain the process through which updates have occurred. They do attempt to emphasize a well-rounded education by including progress in science and social studies as an indicator of school success. However, they fail to include progress in English Language Proficiency (ELP) as an indicator of school success and will only provide assessment instructions in English; despite a diverse student population. Furthermore, they do not incorporate student subgroup (race/ethnicity) data in its school grading system. Student subgroup data will only be reported on school report cards. This process does not guarantee struggling subgroups will be identified and supported. They propose to use a simple A-F grading system to identify underperforming schools. For schools that do not earn a “C” grade after two years, the plan calls for the schools to close or turn over operations to a charter or an external operator. While schools are held accountable for continued failure, as a parent, I am concerned about the impact on students who are enrolled during the two-year improvement period. Lastly, they do not explain how it will use the set-aside Title I dollars for school improvement or how the state will encourage the equitable distribution of funds.