In Virginia, Ellen Luckey and her family are thriving because they had a choice. Luckey shares in this guest post how having educational options has made all the difference for her young daughters.
A Public Charter School Helped Improve My Daughter’s Reading Skills and Instill a Love of Learning
By Ellen Victoria Luckey
As students go back to school this month, I think back three years ago when my husband and I were registering our oldest daughter, Arianna, for kindergarten. We faced the decision of enrolling her in the elementary school in our district—which was in the process of losing accreditation—or applying to the lottery for Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, a public charter school. If we did not have access to another school option, our daughter would be stuck in a failing environment.
As parents, we just wanted what was best for Arianna, who was a young kindergartener. Her birthday was only a few days ahead of the cutoff and we knew she might need a little more help with classes. We were so excited when she was accepted at Patrick Henry because it provides smaller class sizes and more individualized instruction.
Patrick Henry went above and beyond after we received Arianna’s early literacy testing results. The results were lower than hoped for, so her teacher worked with Arianna to get her on track. By mid-year Arianna had tripled her early literacy score, was doing a lot better in class and was on her way to the first grade!
In first grade, Arianna began to have more difficulties. She would not complete her work or would give the test back to her teacher and put her head on her desk. Her first-grade teacher became concerned because she knew she could do the work. After speaking with the principal and Arianna’s teacher, they quickly developed a plan and worked with Arianna to catch up with her classmates. In fact, the assistant principal tutored her one-on-one on Wednesday afternoons until she understood the material. Even the school counselor and the assistant principal would personally check on Arianna if she was having a difficult day. They treated her as if she was their own.
As a parent, the love and attention I saw coming from her teachers, principal, assistant principal, counselor and school staff was overwhelming. Thanks to the early detection, intervention and care of the administration, Arianna has become the wonderful student we all knew she could be.
I believe that level of early intervention would not have been possible at the district school. As Arianna’s academic confidence improved, so did her social confidence and she participated more in class. I’m so thankful for the faculty and staff at Patrick Henry for their dedication and work to make sure Arianna—and all their students—do not fall behind or slip through the cracks.
Although I attended public schools in different counties, I’ve had several family members teach and work in Virginia’s Richmond Public Schools system. One of the things that drew us to Patrick Henry is that it is still part of the public school system, but as a charter school it has the freedom to provide more individualized attention and use innovative solutions. The school also puts a greater emphasis on environmental science and nature, and it even has a garden on campus for hands-on lessons. Its faculty and staff challenge the students by teaching them how to think, not just memorize information, and to take responsibility by working independently on projects.
In our experience there, Patrick Henry is like a big family. Not only are the teachers and administrators invested in the students, but the parents are also invested in helping the school and students succeed. We have an active PTA that is involved in planning school events, as well as meeting with school leadership to address ways we can work together to help struggling students.
Arianna started second grade at Patrick Henry earlier this month, and our younger daughter, Jasmine, entered kindergarten there as well. Both are so excited to be in school and are continuing to thrive at Patrick Henry.
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