I used to wonder why people wanted charter schools. Little did I know that one day a charter school would change my son’s life.
Nationwide, there’s a growing movement toward empowering parents with school choice. Parents want the best for their children, and sometimes their assigned neighborhood school isn’t the right fit.
In my house, we never imagined that would be the case. My husband and I are public school graduates with public school teachers in our family. So sending our son Evan to our local, A-rated elementary school was a no-brainer. However, we soon realized it was not the best choice for him.
In a highly-rated school, Evan was assigned to a classroom environment that just wasn’t a good fit. Despite multiple meetings with the teacher and administration, the principal wouldn’t allow Evan to transfer classes.
This environment took its toll. Evan started the year as an excited, curious learner, but in a few short months his self-esteem had plummeted. He began crying daily, eventually begging me to quit school.
We couldn’t leave Evan’s future to chance, so we started looking beyond the traditional model. Two weeks before first grade began, we literally won the lottery and secured a spot in Tallahassee’s School of Arts and Science at the Centre (SASC), a charter school modeled after the top-notch School of Arts and Sciences. With more than a thousand kids on the schools’ combined wait lists, we didn’t just feel lucky, we felt relief.
The difference at the new school is tremendous. Through all his classes—from Spanish to PE—teachers feed Evan’s curiosity, and he is thriving in every area except one. At his old school, Evan had earned A’s and B’s, yet early assessments at SASC indicated he was a year behind in reading.
Dumbfounded at the discrepancy, we requested assessment results from his last school. They revealed Evan had been ahead of his class when he arrived, but far behind when he left. That entire year neither the school nor his teacher mentioned Evan wasn’t learning; we had no idea he needed intervention. Now at SASC, Evan is in an intensive reading program, and we’re all working to help him catch up.
This experience is why I advocate for school choice, including charter schools. While not for every family, charters were the best fit for my family. And school choice options empower parents with the opportunity to find the right school for their children. Public schools and teachers work tirelessly to instill the love of learning in students. But for those of us whose children aren’t thriving, hoping we might get a better teacher next year is not the recourse we are seeking.
I am a typical mom who just wants the best learning environment for her child. This is what the face of school choice looks like.
Lynne Takacs lives in Tallahassee with her husband and two young sons.