Choosing a School: Types of Schools (page 2)
Parents have a growing array of options in choosing a school, though the extent of the options varies from state to state. The enactment of the landmark No Child Left Behind Act of 2001; the rapid growth of the charter school movement; the increasing number of states enacting voucher, scholarship, and tax credit programs; the expansion of privately funded scholarship programs for low-income children; and the growing acceptance of homeschooling have all increased the choices available to families.
Parents can exercise choice in many ways. The most common way may be in choosing where to live based on the public school district or neighborhood schools. In many areas, parents can choose from neighborhood schools, charter schools or other public schools of choice, or transfer their child to another public school (in or out of district). They can also select a private school (religious or secular) or teach their child at home.
Choosing a School for Your Child offers step-by-step advice on how to choose among the schools available to your child. It identifies important factors you may want to consider before making a decision. As you and your child visit different schools, you may want to consider the questions in each section of this booklet.
Why Should You Choose Your Child's School?
No one cares more about your child's welfare than you do. No one else will be more careful to see that your child is well educated and well treated in school. You know your child's personality, strengths and weaknesses. You know the interests that light up your child's eyes. You know the values that your family wants a school to respect.
Choosing your child's school may also make you more confident that she will be taught effectively and treated fairly. Choosing your child's school carefully is an important way you can help your child achieve all that he can be. This is a head and a heart decision. Don't be afraid to heed your own informed and intuitive wisdom.
Learn What Choices Are Available to You
Different schools offer alternatives in teaching styles, content, and learning opportunities. This section briefly describes some types of schools you may find.
Neighborhood Public Schools
Many parents choose to send their children to the public school in their neighborhood, according to an assignment system developed by the school district. Attending a neighborhood public school can make it easy for your child to get to school, to work with classmates on group projects, and to visit friends. These schools are often anchors in a community.
Other Public Schools
You may want to investigate other public schools. In an increasing number of districts, you can choose to send your child to a specialized public school. These schools of choice often emphasize a particular subject or have a special philosophy of education. One school might emphasize science, art, or language study. Another might offer a firm code of conduct, a dress code, or a rigorous traditional academic program.
Another may be an alternative school designed to respond to students who are insufficiently challenged by the regular school program, who are likely to drop out, or who have behavioral or substance abuse problems. These schools, often small, work to make students feel they belong. Some states also offer second chance schools or clinics for students who have dropped out of regular schools and now want to complete their education.
Charter schools are public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Charter schools allow parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs, and others the flexibility to innovate, create and provide students with increased educational options. Charter schools exercise increased autonomy in return for stronger accountability. They are sponsored by designated local, state, or other organizations that monitor their quality and integrity while holding them accountable for academic results and fiscal practices.
Magnet schools are designed to attract students from diverse social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds by focusing on a specific subject, such as science, technology, or the arts. Some magnet schools require students to take an exam or demonstrate knowledge or skill in the specialty to qualify to go to the school, while others are open to students who express an interest in that area.
Instead of taking classes in a school building, students can receive their education using a computer through a virtual school. Virtual schools have an organized curriculum. Depending on the state and district, students can take the full curriculum or individual classes. Some school districts have used these online schools to offer classes that will help students learn at their own pace. Virtual education is sometimes used in remote areas for specialized or advanced courses that are not available in the immediate area. This type of studying is also called 'distance learning.'
Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Programs
Advanced Placement courses offer rigorous content, and at the end of a course students can take the national Advanced Placement exam. If they score well on the exam, many colleges and universities will grant college credit for completing the course. The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a program of rigorous academic courses. Students who graduate from the program receive an International Baccalaureate diploma that is recognized by colleges and universities throughout the world. Other students may choose not to take the full IB curriculum but pursue certificates in individual areas. Elementary and middle schools may also offer components of the IB program.
Reprinted with the permission of the U.S. Department of Education.
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