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Mom | Writer
There is a lot of conversation about the state of public education right now. It is underfunded, dramatically understaffed and teachers are overworked and underpaid. As if it was not hard enough, teachers have been given rigorous direction on curriculum leaving no room for them to create inventive lesson plans or allow for lessons directed at different student’s way of learning. Instead, they are given a blanket curriculum that leaves many behind in the end.
Last year alone massive budget cuts left Kansas teachers leaving the state in droves, which left those who stayed and the students lacking the help and attention necessary for a proper learning experience. Kansas had to hire substitutes and allowed teachers who were not yet fully certified to fill the empty classrooms.
This is one of many instances across the states that has proven that if our teachers are not treated with the respect they deserve and are not given a living wage to teach our next generation of scientists, authors and artists that we will have no future. Parents are scrambling to understand how this happened and how they can help, but this isn’t something that has happened over night. There has been a gradual shift in the Board of Education’s funding and priority, which is very apparent in the skills gap, which many attribute to not getting the proper education through high school and college to be ready for the workforce.
As a mother and granddaughter of an English teacher this has left me with a less than ideal opinion about the public school system so I began researching ways I could take this into my own hands. What I discovered are some very real and surprising alternatives to traditional public schools. I hope that this helps you in navigating the choices available to you as it did me.
This is one of the most intriguing, exciting things I discovered. Green Schooling is dedicated to not only a higher standard of teaching but a sustainable one. It is comprised of teachers, schools and curriculum that includes lessons in sustainability through their three pillars: environmental impact, human health, and eco-literacy. It is a move in the right direction to addressing the importance of each person’s impact on the earth and a great initiative. These are still public schools, so if you are looking to steer further away KIPP may be right for you.
Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP)
This is another wonderful program. There are KIPP programs from grade school up and all of them are dedicated to an excellent education that prepares each student for college in the future. Statistically KIPP students complete college at a higher rate than the national average and four times the rate than student from low economic backgrounds which makes up 88 percent of KIPP students.
There are 200 KIPP schools right now in and in the District of Columbia with nearly 80,000 students and the professionals they hire for the classrooms are treated as such. KIPP emphasizes the reality that without great teachers there cannot be great schools and they invest in further training. If this program seems to good to be true, it might be. The program is centered primarily on the east coast. If there is not a KIPP school close other options will have to do.
At first glance I thought this was going to be some intricate wizardry camp for kids where everyone dresses up in their best cloak and talk all things science fiction for the summer but alas it is actually a school system that is dedicated to creating a space of learning through experience, not just reading books and hearing lectures. The goal is to help students learn in such a way that they are not simply memorizing facts but to intellectually think about the facts and assimilate the information.
This school of thought does not place emphasis on competitive testing or academic placement but rather on freedom in education. For many this kind of education may be too loose of a curriculum, but I really liked how this route of education gave the teachers and the students back the creative spark that is missing within the public school arena now. Waldorf Education is not available everywhere either but there are many schools all over the world.
Virtual Public School
The idea of a virtual school with the public school curriculum excites me. All of the tools are given to me and I have the opportunity to teach or hire someone to teach these things in a way that would best benefit my child. Each student receives all the materials necessary for the school year, including textbooks, science supplies, DVD’s, workbooks and a whiteboard right to their doorstep.
Homeschooling has never even been an option for me. I would not want to trust my daughter’s education in my hands completely. I am sure there are many things that I have forgotten or really never cared for that she may love or are necessary for her to excel. Virtual Public School is not homeschooling. Virtual students still have to adhere to attendance and testing as any other student would, and the public school district is still responsible for the student’s success. The parents just have a better idea of the curriculum and can spend more time assisting in their success.
It is extremely unfortunate that our education system is in such a disarray that these suggestions are even necessary. Staying aware of the issues and choices made that affect our school systems and our teachers is something we should all be doing. Let’s lead our children by example. Knowledge is power and with that knowledge we can affect positive change. Until that time comes these alternatives are an outlet for better education if it suits your specific needs.
About Rose Rennar