Cultivate learning through school choice

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My first experience with school choice came in the fourth grade when I auditioned for, and was accepted to, John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School.

I attended Davidson from fifth grade until my high-school graduation, and I was lucky enough to reap the benefits of a world-class education coupled with superior fine arts instruction. With that foundation, I went on to the University of Georgia to earn a bachelor’s degree in English education and then to UCLA to attend the Principal’s Leadership Institute and earn a master’s degree in education administration.

Now that I am executive director of a public charter school, I am continually reminded not only of how I personally benefited from school choice, but of the benefits of school choice for everyone.

Several years ago, an eager fourth-grade student named James and his parents walked into my office and inquired about enrolling in South Carolina Connections Academy. I listened intently as James and his sister described the life-threatening food allergies that forced them to seek a school other than the one they were zoned for. Thankfully, James’ family was not bound by their ZIP code, and they were able to find a quality educational option for their children outside the confines of the traditional public school classroom.

TODAY, JAMES IS in seventh grade at South Carolina Connections Academy and is a stellar virtual school student. Changing schools was certainly the right decision for his family.

Now, instead of worrying about his safety, James’ family is celebrating his acceptance into the Duke University Talent Identification Program, where he has been invited to spend the summer.

While James is just one student who has benefited from school choice, his story makes me optimistic about the future of education in the CSRA. What if school choice had not been a reality for James’ family?

This week is National School Choice Week, and I am thankful for all the learning options that exist for every “James” across the country.

Today, families have a range of diverse options for quality education for their children in grades K-12, whether they attend their traditional brick-and-mortar public school; are homeschooled; attend virtual public school through South Carolina Connections Academy; go to a blended online/on-site public school; or choose to enroll their children anywhere in-between. Education is no longer one-size-fits-all, and not every educational institution is the right fit for every child.

FAMILIES OF STUDENTS who are hospitalized or homebound; who are training to be actors or professional athletes; or who learn at a faster or slower pace than their peers should be empowered to choose the academic environment that best cultivates learning in their children.

So many charter schools give students the option to learn over the course of a full calendar year or graduate early. Some states even have blended learning options that enable high-school students to spend four hours a day at school and the rest interning, volunteering, dually enrolled on a college campus or learning a trade skill.

Whether you are a parent, community member, educator or all three, I encourage you to learn more about the ways families are elevating the quality of education through choice by scheduling a school visit or attending a school choice event this week. Please join me and South Carolina Connections Academy in celebrating National School Choice Week and all of the quality educational options in South Carolina.

Let’s do it for James!

(The writer is executive director of South Carolina Connections Academy, a tuition-free online public school and the state’s first virtual charter school.)

Comments (17) Add comment
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ymnbde
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ymnbde 01/31/14 - 06:23 am
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education is far more

education is far more important than a specific water fountain
or a certain seat on a bus.
If we don't respect "certain" children enough to educate them,
how can we then hold them responsible for the predictable results?
Education is the civil rights issue of our times. All other problems are just subsets of poor government education.
The government has proven it can not, will not, educate black children. Rich people reject government schools. Poor people are in bondage to them.
School choice
It's the only way to close the education gap, the only gap that matters.
Democrats have proven to be the last and most successful racists of modern times
Their disrespect for black children is despicable.
Why don't they respect "certain" children enough to educate them?
for their votes, of course.
are the democrats afraid that if black kids learn to read and write and do arithmetic that they will realize the democratic party has been running one of the biggest scams in history at their expense?
(oh, and Davidson gives school choice to the few, and harms the others... it's a closed system... give every school the same choice, and the same rules)

Bodhisattva
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Bodhisattva 01/31/14 - 06:24 am
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Tuition free!

No wonder Barbara Dreyer, the CEO of Connections Academy, doesn't show a compensation package. They do it all for the love of kids and don't make a dime from it. I wondered if anyone could write a guest editorial hawking a for profit company and the Chronicle would run it for nothing. Sure seems like it would cut into the advertising dollars. I guess since Ms. Dreyer made all of her money in telecommunications, venture capital, and chemical manufacturing, and didn't have any of experience at all in education, she'd just feel guilty charging folks. You'd expect the folks at Pearson to expect some return for the $400 million they shelled out for the company though. If you didn't know better you'd think they were skimming from public schools to pay for schoolers to have the taxpayers shell out for them. Back in the old days, when the racists wanted to go to the segregration academies so they didn't have to touch kids of a different color and the home school folks didn't want their kids to learn controversial subjects, like science, they had to pay out of pocket and have some skin in the game. Now they just get the model legislation from ALEC and the GOP to drain money from pubic schools to fork over to campaign donors from for profit "education" firms, and I use the term loosely since they underperform even the public schools, and try to kill public schools. A jamming good job they're doing to since, according to their online report card with the state, their high school has an on time graduation rate of 34.5% vs. 73.8% for "High Schools with Students
Like Ours".

Pond Life
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Pond Life 01/31/14 - 07:33 am
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Oh the evils of profit. If
Unpublished

Oh the evils of profit. If only we had one of those ever so successful utopian socialist nations like the many that have succeeded before us.

There are those who bemoan CEO's who work for profit and not "for the kids" yet will back teachers unions all day, who will go on strike and refuse to teach the children in order to get a better pension. How is that "for the kids?"

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/31/14 - 08:38 am
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This Is The Future of Education

State authorized internet schools are the future of education. They deliver results at a fraction of the cost. Kids are not all the same and learn best at an individual pace. For those stuck in substandard schools with abysmal graduation rates, creating negative influences, this is a godsend.

Pond Life
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Pond Life 01/31/14 - 08:59 am
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It seems that the liberals
Unpublished

It seems that the liberals who claim to be in favor of choice, are for anything but choice when it comes to school. They want to make sure that the children have no choice but to be indoctrinated to be a good socialist.

Bizkit
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Bizkit 01/31/14 - 10:09 am
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Cultivate learning by raising

Cultivate learning by raising your child to appreciate how important "learning" is in their lives. An education isn't taking a course, getting a piece of paper saying you've done said goals-it's an appreciation that we are lifelong learners-some things you can learn from a book but others have to be directly taught one person to another. I learned how to perform a special surgical technique and run a special apparatus by directly showing me the skill. You think your physician stopped their education once out of medical school-get real they have to maintain their education and accreditation. Lifelong learners. Young folks in particular see an education as just a transition to that occupation-it's a journey you never stop.

Bizkit
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Bizkit 01/31/14 - 10:11 am
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Choice to Dems isn't

Choice to Dems isn't education or health care but whether you want to keep a child or abort it, or what birth control method you prefer.

countyman
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countyman 01/31/14 - 10:27 am
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Davidson

Davidson is the best school in the state, and I'm glad the school is located in the CBD..

DanK
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DanK 01/31/14 - 11:45 am
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online education is not the answer

Some areas of education just do not translate into online courses. You cannot learn acting or musical performance or useful hands-on skills online. You cannot develop social skills online, which are critical in successfully working in an organization. And the fact is, to give a lot of kids a real chance in life, you've got to get them out of their home environment, and give them structure and discipline and an organized learning experience.

dahreese
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dahreese 01/31/14 - 11:49 am
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"Education is no longer
Unpublished

"Education is no longer one-size-fits-all, and not every educational institution is the right fit for every child."

The writer (with a Masters in Education) has failed to learn that "one size fits all" has never been the concept of public education.

Rather the concept has been/is that every child have the opportunity FOR and education.

Having taught gifted/motivated children I can personally say that teaching such children is not near the work it takes to teach less gifted/motivated children.

And I can wonder how well the writer might be successful and survive trying to teach low average, unmotivated children.

The commenters above who are trying to put blame on public education for teaching "socialism", or blaming Democrats or Republicans for the ills of public education, have no idea what they are talking about.

There has never been a time when public education wasn't criticized, nor the ignorant claiming it costs too much. (Has anyone EVER seen a politician who didn't promise to improve public education, and yet intends to reduce taxes at the same time)?

It can't be done......

Let's be realistic adults and admit that educational corporations are not into education for the benefits of the children. Rather, there's money to be made from tapping into the public treasury - YOUR TAXES AND MINE.
--------------------------------
I might add that the "blending" of educational opportunities is great (not that it's a new idea at all).

But we need to be a little more flexible and not require a "track" from which the student cannot crossover if he/she feels they have made a mistake in choosing.
----------------------------------------------
"So many charter schools give students the option to learn over the course of a full calendar year or graduate early. Some states even have blended learning options that enable high-school students to spend four hours a day at school and the rest interning, volunteering, dually enrolled on a college campus or learning a trade skill."

Suppose we change "charter schools" into "public schools?"

There is absolutely no reason why we can't do this in public education, except that politicians will say it cost too much.
-----------------------------------

"FAMILIES OF STUDENTS who are hospitalized or homebound; who are training to be actors or professional athletes; or who learn at a faster or slower pace than their peers should be empowered to choose the academic environment that best cultivates learning in their children."

Public education can do this, too, if the taxpayer is willing to dig down into his pockets and pay for it.
----------------------
It isn't the White House, the Congress, Wall Street or the Pentagon;

PUBLIC EDUCATION is the backbone of this country.

dahreese
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dahreese 01/31/14 - 11:52 am
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May I add, that this business
Unpublished

May I add, that this business of online education/computerized education for children is NOT a good idea.

Kids also learn from one another and a classroom setting cannot be beat.

Pond Life
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Pond Life 01/31/14 - 11:56 am
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You can't reduce taxes AND
Unpublished

You can't reduce taxes AND improve education? Really. This coming from someone who claims OTHER people don't know what they are talking about. If public education is such a backbone, why don't the President's children use it? He must not know how good it is.

Sweet son
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Sweet son 01/31/14 - 12:00 pm
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DanK is right! Education is more than just studying.

Socialization and life lessons are learned while attending school in traditional classrooms.

ynmbde's statement is flawed! "The government has proven it can not, will not, educate black children." If the government had teachable material then it could educate. The comment-er should look deeper into the problem and not worry about black or white. He should worry about the complete and total failure of a great percentage of the black family unit. And yes, the same failure is true with white families. I included the mention of whites too but the original comment only addressed blacks. Wonder what that means?

The lack of proper parenting is the biggest problem.

InChristLove
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InChristLove 01/31/14 - 12:44 pm
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"Kids also learn from one

"Kids also learn from one another and a classroom setting cannot be beat."

That's the problem. I worry what the kids are learning from other classmates. Actually " online education/computerized education" is an alternative. I have a friend who's son dropped out of school. Finally got his GED and is taking college courses on-line and loving it.

What works for some does not work for all. That's the beauty of it.

InChristLove
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InChristLove 01/31/14 - 12:48 pm
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"Socialization and life

"Socialization and life lessons are learned while attending school in traditional classrooms."

Socialization and life lessons can also be learned through outside social organizations. I'd much rather my child learn how to socially conduct him or herself through an organization like the scouts, rainbows, or a youth religious organization than a traditional classroom. I've witnessed how some kids conduct themselves and the language and disrepect they show teachers......thank you very much but I have higher expectations for my kids and grandkids.

ymnbde
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ymnbde 01/31/14 - 01:01 pm
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"If the government had teachable material then it could educate"

sweet son don't let reality get in your way
poor black kids are just as capable of learning as rich white kids
yet poor black kids are not educated as well as rich white kids
their test scores and reading levels are almost always lower
private schools teach poor black kids
Catholic schools teach poor black kids
at far lower cost per student than the failing public schools
and money isn't the problem! the money isn't spent on education!
the money is spent on adult bureaucrats! it is absolutely wasted
the adults get in line first, and the poor black kids get the separate and lesser leftovers
demos are always complaining about "unfair" things
and the education gap is the most unfair gap of all
and it is the fault of the democrats
teachers unions are just a subset of the democrats
government education is a proven failure
how much longer must we make our children suffer?

deestafford
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deestafford 01/31/14 - 01:22 pm
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What a great column!

What a great column!

To give an example of how screwed up public education institutions are, yesterday I read where a school in NYC is cancelling its advanced placement program. Why? Because there was not enough black children meeting the entry requirements and therefore it wasn't fair!!!!

The principal then went on to say a good teacher could teach a class with students with various levels of ability and all would be exposed to quality teaching. What a bunch of horse squeeze!!!

Standards mean nothing. Equality is what's important. Everyone advances at the speed of the slowest. And we wonder why the US ranks so low in education.

Pond Life
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Pond Life 01/31/14 - 01:46 pm
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Dee, the people who want a
Unpublished

Dee, the people who want a teacher to teach all students, so that they all learn equally are the some ones who demand income equality. They all want equal outcomes without equal ability, equal ambition, equal effort, etc.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/31/14 - 02:39 pm
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Schools Are to Teach, Not Baby Sit and Encourage Socialization

"Socialization and life lessons are learned while attending school in traditional classrooms."

Ah, we are being honest here. We expect schools to teach kids how to socialize when that is not the prescribed task. Schools are to teach academics. Parents can ensure the socialization of their kids in other ways with the groups they want, not those chosen by the government.

deestafford
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deestafford 01/31/14 - 03:16 pm
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It just dawned on me...

It just dawned on me why the left keeps talking about school being the only place for socialization of their kids. It's because that's where they want them to be all the time---under the care and indoctrination of the government run schools. Feed 'em breakfast. Feed 'em lunch. Have after school programs. Feed 'em supper. Send them home to sleep and start the cycle all over the next day.

augusta citizen
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augusta citizen 01/31/14 - 04:39 pm
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Socialization

I have several friends who currently and have in the past home-schooled their children. These kids are all well rounded with many friends and interests, church groups, homeschool groups, neighborhood friends, etc. You can join scouts, 4-H, theatrical groups, chorales and participate in rec sports. My children attended private Christian schools that we were pleased with, I would home-school before sending them to public schools though.

dahreese
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dahreese 01/31/14 - 05:16 pm
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Hummmm.Wonder how many
Unpublished

Hummmm.

"It just dawned on me...."

Wonder how many conservative commenters on here graduated from public schools?

How many of YOU sent YOUR kids to public schools?

How many of YOU are paying the way for your grandkids to go to charter and private schools?

There's nothing like putting YOUR MONEY where YOUR MOUTH is.

Pond Life
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Pond Life 01/31/14 - 05:54 pm
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How many conservatives would
Unpublished

Hmmm...it just dawned on me.

How many conservatives would have more choices if the liberals didn't do everything they can to shut down the options to public schools? You are right....there is nothing like putting your money where your mouth is....or if you are a liberal....putting someone else's money where your mouth is.

dahreese
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dahreese 01/31/14 - 07:07 pm
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I have put my money where my
Unpublished

I have put my money where my mouth is, and my five children. All attended public schools all have a degree of one sort of another from college or technical school, and one finished a PhD (in curriculum) at Clemson in August of 2012.

Like the writer of the article above, I also have a Masters degree, as does the mother of my/our children and who also has a Master of Divinity from Columbia Seminary.

I also taught for 33 years in public schools; gifted and not so gifted; poor and wealthy; from good homes and not so good homes (and wealthy has little to do with that); from single parent and two parent homes.

I'm also proud to be an open minded liberal.

I got an education and not just a degree or two and I left the closed minded conservative life in which I was raised years ago, and I couldn't go back to that style of view even if I wanted to.

Once you are out of it, you don't want to go back.

Pond Life
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Pond Life 01/31/14 - 07:37 pm
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Open minded, closed minded.
Unpublished

Open minded, closed minded. Let the intolerent name calling begin.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/31/14 - 07:49 pm
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Dahreese, Congratulations

Dahreese, you are to be congratulated for earning your degrees and educating your children. I'm sure you are proud of them. As far as you saying you left the close minded conservative view and you couldn't go back, it does require a higher level of awareness before you start to see that personal freedom and responsibility are what's important. You may get there one day.

Pond Life
17682
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Pond Life 01/31/14 - 07:54 pm
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Ironically it takes a bit of
Unpublished

Ironically it takes a bit of close mindedness to "never be able to go back."

dahreese
4909
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dahreese 01/31/14 - 08:32 pm
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"Ironically it takes a bit of
Unpublished

"Ironically it takes a bit of close mindedness to "never be able to go back."

Less so the inability or the fear of letting go and moving forward.

Once the moment of insight is achieved the action is somewhere else and you don't want to go back.

dahreese
4909
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dahreese 01/31/14 - 10:16 pm
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"You may get there one
Unpublished

"You may get there one day."

It's not a journey where you ever "get there."

A journey that only you can go.

It's your journey, not somebody else's journey.

You go alone, if you dare.

Individuated.

You come too....

KSL
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KSL 01/31/14 - 10:00 pm
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Riverman, I have to disagree

Riverman, I have to disagree with you about the teaching of socialization. As a preschooler in Athens in the 50's I had a year. But I missed kindergarten when we moved. I grew up in a community of elderly relatives, but no kids except my sister 5 1/2 years younger and brother 7 years younger.

But then, I guess I got that socialization at that UGA place for little kids. I do remember fighting over getting to the swings and those awful unwanted naps they tried to make me take.

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