When we grew up, going to a public school was pretty much a given. It was in the neighborhood, it was what our parents did and they turned out ok, there weren't a lot of alternatives, and most importantly it was free. Boy have the times changed! There are many choices for parents. In our city alone there are over 130 private schools - almost as many as there are public. Even in the public schools you have choice, like the magnets we have in Duval. The times may have changed - but largely and unfortunately - public schools have not. Given the number of students lost each year to private or to magnets, regular old public schools had better figure out how to meet the needs of a ever changing, ever growing and ever more demanding community.
Information abounds. Beyond what you can find on the state or local webpage there are whole companies like Great Schools and School Matters devoted to comparing schools and providing potential consumers with more than enough info, including testimonials, to help them make up their minds. Parents are smarter about what they want, or more importantly don't want, for their kids. Just this past week I was emailed by a prospective parent who basically interviewed me to see if our school was right, and good enough, for her child. Bravo to her for advocating for something different and special for her child - after all aren't our children the most important asset we have as parents, and as educators dedicated to making the world a better place. How would YOU answer the following questions?
1. What are the school policies on music, art, recess and pe (how much are they alloted each week? is exclusion from these programs used as a discipline method?)
2. In regards to classroom discipline, is there a schoolwide policy, or do teachers select their own classroom discipline method. For example: Great Expectations, Canter Method, Pulling Cards...etc.)
3. What curriculum has the school adopted in math, reading/phonics?
4. What amount of emphasis is placed in the areas of science and social studies?
5. For your school, what is the predominant theory of education that is being used, progressivist, social reconstructivist...etc.
6. Classroom instruction...(would you consider it to be more constructivist or traditional)
7. How heavily do the teachers rely on textbooks?
8. What is the policy in regards to the use of worksheets?
9. What is the school's policy in regards to assigning homework?
10. In your opinion, outside of test scores, why is Chet's Creek an A+ school?
I love our school and I believe in public education with all my heart. It has been critical throughout my entire career to educate them all - even the toughest ones. If public education is to survive we all need to be prepared to answer questions like those above and more. Our answers shouldn't look like they would have 100 years, 50 years, 25 years, 10 years or even a year ago. I proudly answered each question about our school - there were no yes or no answers either. This parent wanted to know, really know, what we were about and she deserved more than the standard answer. By the way, we're hired! This family will be moving to the area in a month and buying a house in our attendance area. Her precious, valuable and deserving 5 year old will become a Creeker because WE offer more than the standard answer inside our classrooms each and every day.