Learning has never been a one-size-fits-all experience for children. Between myriad teaching styles and the many ways kids take in and process information, there’s endless opportunity for the gap between getting it and not getting it to widen.
But the growing trend in education may be the answer for children struggling in classrooms across the country. School choice – by definition, an extensive range of academic programs offering students and their families options to traditional public school – puts the decision where and how children learn in the hands of parents and kids themselves.
Is school choice right for your child? With open enrollment for the 2018-19 school year happening in Miami-Dade County now through January 15, you’ll want to learn all you can to make the most educated decision.
Know Your Options
The special-interest, single-themed programs (think international studies, liberal arts, science tech, engineering and math, and visual and performing arts) offered by magnet schools are designed to attract a diversity of students from multiple backgrounds. “These schools were developed to integrate our communities and bring kids from all walks of life into one school, because they share a common interest,” says Virna Kaufman, director of magnet budgets and operations, Miami-Dade County Public Schools School Choice & Parental Options. “We’ve found that when students are taking electives in a program of their choice, they’re more motivated.”
Charter schools are, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, independent public schools allowed the freedom to be more innovative, while being held accountable for improved student achievement. They foster a partnership between parents, teachers and students to create an environment in which parents can be more involved, teachers are given the freedom to innovate and students are provided the structure they need to learn, with all three held accountable for improved student achievement.
Thematic, curriculum-based programs offered at all grade levels and implemented during the regular school day, known as choice programs, are situated in traditional schools. Different from magnet programs, they are designed for and first offered to students who are assigned to and live within the boundaries of that particular school site.
Evaluate the Benefits
The most compelling case for school choice? “Children are able to use skills they already have – or want to acquire – in areas they’re interested in,” cites Kaufman. “With an elementary school child, parents may want to pick a certain focus for them to spark their interest, such as learning a foreign language. As kids move on to middle or high school, they start demonstrating abilities and interests and become part of the process of choosing.”
Children are also able to experience a higher quality and level of education as additional resources at these schools allow kids to be involved in more activities. “We build community partnerships so students can experience things that are unique to their program, above and beyond traditional schooling,” says Kaufman. “Right now, we have elementary school children who are coding a program into a robot to enable it to move.”
“We also capitalize on school location,” she continues. “One of our schools, strategically built in collaboration with the City of Miami, is adjacent to the police station and opposite the courthouse. Students are able to train in areas that are shared with the police department and students who are studying law can walk across the street to see how it is put into practice.”
Learn the Requirements
Different programs have different enrollment requirements, so it’s best to contact the school of your choice directly to find out what they are. Proficiency in reading and math is typically a must, and most programs will accept students with a GPA and conduct code of 2.0 or higher. To learn more, go to yourchoicemiami.org or schoolchoicemiami.com.