To the editor:
This National School Choice Week (Jan. 26-Feb. 1), I want to share with you one of the most common short-circuits that parents run into when choosing the right school for their child. That way, if you see it coming, you can run the other way.
It starts with a thought like this: “Do I, as a parent, really know best about my child’s education?” After all, I don’t have a graduate degree in education. There’s a lot of school jargon I’m not sure about. Should I let more-equipped people make the calls about where and how my child is educated?
I understand the tendency to think that way.
But I work with tens of thousands of school leaders around the country — the “education experts” — every year, and here’s what I believe:
You know your child better than anyone else. You are the expert on your child as a whole person — how they learn, experience the world, and what they’re passionate about. You are best positioned to help your student find the learning environment where their unique self will be cared for and inspired. Nobody is more invested in your child’s happiness than you.
The biggest mistake you can make as a parent is not recognizing that power you hold. Not only are you best equipped to make choices for your child’s education, but it can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. When a parent finds a learning environment where their child’s potential is unleashed, it can mean the difference between that child finding success and confidence, or feeling like a failure.
Change that starts with parents is the single most powerful way to improve education in New York.
Seek advice and use research, certainly, but also believe in your instinct and expertise as a parent. Around the country, there’s evidence that when we make it easier for parents to choose, they do make good choices for their child’s education. We’ve seen the positive impact accessible school options have had in places like Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix and more.
In New York, there are a variety of educational options to attend, including: traditional public schools with open enrollment at the discretion of each district, charter schools, magnet schools, private schools and home-schooling.
School choice is the starting point for better schools, where families are personally invested and there is a strong human connection and open communication between parents and teachers. When students learn that learning is something to be excited by, invested in, and challenged by, that shapes their perspective for life.
This School Choice Week, parents, students and educators in New York will participate in more than 2,423 events and activities, celebrating all types of kindergarten through 12th-grade education, and sharing knowledge with each other. It’s also a celebration of parents recognizing their power and choosing to be involved in their child’s education.
This week, realize your power as a parent and start thinking about what learning environment can best inspire your child to happiness in the 2020-21 school year.
The author is a nationally recognized advocate for children and families, serving as president of National School Choice Week.