The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
Last May, a hilarious Saturday Night Live skit starred Adam Sandler as a tour guide trying to manage customer expectations as they prepare for travel. “If you’re sad now, you might still feel sad in Italy, okay?,” he explains. Essentially, the skit is a riff on the old Latin proverb, “They change their sky, not their soul, who rush across the sea.”
SNL is at least halfway right. You’re usually the same person no matter where you are. Especially as adults, we can benefit from the reminder that a vacation won’t change who we are.
But, if you’re a developing child, there is a place that is deeply formative on your wellbeing: school. But all children are different, and what might be a fantastic learning environment for one student might not be a good fit for another.
In fact, the type of school environment where a child spends more than six hours a day can be life-changing. And, if children benefit from environments that tap into their strengths — while nurturing and invigorating them — that transformation can lead to higher levels of learning, happiness, success and preparation for life.
These are the main reasons that I encourage parents across Arizona to evaluate the education options available for their children during National School Choice Week, which begins on January 26. Whether parents are looking for their child’s first school, or if they want to find a different learning environment for their daughter or son, starting the school search process in January provides enough time to find the right fit in advance of the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
The two words “school choice” are shorthand for myriad options — from choosing your neighborhood public school to homeschooling and everything in between. Arizona parents have access to six broad options: traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, online schools, private schools, and homeschooling.
Within these broad categories are even more choices. For example, Arizona parents may choose any traditional public school within their district, or in another district, based on the state’s flexible open enrollment laws. Traditional public schools aren’t all the same: They have different leadership, may use different learning methods, and may just “feel different” to you.
In Arizona, families can also choose from tuition-free public charter schools. These schools are allowed extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods, which can then be shared with district schools.
Magnet schools are a third type of free public school in Arizona. These schools allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as engineering, health science, or the arts.
Additionally, a fourth free public school option in Arizona is online school, which can be used to accelerate learning, create a flexible schedule or respond to a particular learning style. Arizona offers several free, full-time online learning options for students.
Of course, Arizona also has all shapes and sizes of private schools for you to consider too, from schools that pass on a religious or cultural heritage to schools designed for children with special needs. Arizona offers a variety of state-run scholarship programs.
Finally, homeschooling, which is permitted in all 50 states, is another school option you can consider, and there are more resources for homeschooling families than ever before.
National School Choice Week exists to help empower parents and provide information about all of these options, while encouraging schools and learning environments to raise awareness of the positive impact they have on their local communities. This year, 1,196 school fairs, rallies, open houses, and other events and activities will help spread the word about options in Arizona during National School Choice Week.
Your child deserves the best opportunity to excel in life—and that starts with choosing the school or learning environment that suits his or her strengths and your family’s values. School choice doesn’t work miracles, but it does come close for some families. I’ve personally seen and heard families whose lives have been transformed in a matter of months after finding a school that better fit them.
We may stay who we are no matter where we traveled over the holidays, but students still have a world of undeveloped possibilities in their remaining school years. I hope you’ll use National School Choice Week to find the best learning destination for them, or celebrate the home they’ve already found in the right school.
Andrew R. Campanella serves as president of National School Choice Week. He lives in Miami.
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