Editorial: Tips for finding the right school for your child
By Andrew Campanella
If you’d like to send your child to a different school next year, now’s the time to start the process of researching your options.
As California prepares to commemorate National School Choice Week later this month at 990 events across the state, and nearly 11,000 events nationwide, many parents will begin evaluating the educational opportunities that are available for their children.
Believe it or not, seats in schools are already beginning to fill up for the 2015–16 school year. Interest in school choice — the process of actively choosing a public, charter, magnet, private or online school — is high. That means that waiting until the spring or the summer to begin researching schools for your children could restrict your options.
No handbook or tip sheet can truly guide parents through the entire process of selecting a school, because choosing schools is an individual experience unique to every family.
However, parents can start by making a list of the attributes that they hope to find in an ideal school. Ask yourself: What’s most important to you and to the academic, social, and emotional wellbeing of your child? Is it the academic performance of a school, school safety, the instructional methods, the qualifications of teachers, the school’s educational theme, a school’s shared values or other factors?
Once you’ve identified what matters most, start looking into the options available to you. In addition to the local public school, you may be eligible to send your child to a school outside of your ZIP code, or in a different school district. Look into nearby charter schools and magnet schools. Don’t leave private and faith-based schools off your list! You might be able to find scholarships to cover the costs of tuition. And for some families, online learning and homeschooling work best.
To find the options available to you, look at information from the California Department of Education, as well as information on state-based education reform or school choice organization websites. For a directory of most schools in your area, along with parent rankings and some performance metrics, parents can visit this website: greatschools.org.
With your list of requirements and your list of schools in hand, start making appointments to visit the schools. Ask to sit in on classes, and make sure to ask as many questions as possible of teachers, the administration, and support staff. You’ll want to find out what motivates the adults in the building, while also seeing how the students in the classes respond to their teachers. Ask yourself: Is this a place where I’d want to send my child for most of his or her weekday waking hours?
Finally, make sure to talk with other parents — and to your own children. Ask parents how the schools’ administrators treat parents, and whether they welcome, or discourage, parental involvement. And most importantly, ask your children about their perceptions of the schools that you’ve visited. Find out what excites and motivates your child at school, but also ask about their worries, concerns and apprehensions.
Making the decision to change schools certainly isn’t easy. And switching schools isn’t a piece of cake, either. But if you start now, and plan out the journey, you’ll find that the destination — a great school for your child — is well worth the diligence and effort.
—Andrew R. Campanella is the president of National School Choice Week (Jan. 25 – 31), America’s largest-ever celebration of opportunity in education. Andrew lives in Miramar Beach, Florida.
Editorial: Tend to personal cybersecurity in the new year
By Liz Fraumann
With the new year upon us, not only is it the time to take care of your physical health and well-being, but it is also the time to take care of your cyber health. Protecting your personal information is extremely important, so why not make it a New Year’s resolution to strengthen your identity and personal cyber security in 2015?
Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility by everyone. Neither government authorities nor online businesses are responsible for your personal cybersecurity — in the end, it’s up to you.
- Make a New Year’s resolution to start this 2015 on the right foot. Securing Our eCity Foundation has these useful tips:
- Change passwords. Give your accounts some brand new locks to keep predators outside. If you use an app to keep track of passwords, make sure it is legitimate and that they are signed by reputable retailers.
- Instead of using your SSN for your tax returns, call the IRS and get an ID number to use.
- Get your credit report to ensure that there are no issues when you start the new year.
- Switch over to using a bank issued gift card, as opposed to a credit card, when making purchases in the new year to protect your credit.
- Securing Our eCity Foundation has a “cyber hygiene poster” that is a free resource. To download, visit securingourecity.org
For free tips, programs and other resources to live in a safe cyber environment, go to www.securingourecity.org or call 619-630-2444.
—Liz Fraumann is executive director of the Securing Our eCity Foundation.