Our Power of School Choice
Our Power of School Choice, from a Mom Paying it Forward
By Geomarie Ramos
If you go back just a few generations, you’ll find that the concept of “school choice” was vastly different than today. Parents had limited choices for their children’s education—the local public school, nearby private school, or a home-school model riddled with the challenges of a non-tech world and a society defined by both parents working full-time jobs. Even among these few choices, the preferred option may have been passed up due to financial, geographical, or convenience factors.
How different things are today! Every National School Choice Week (this year January 21-27), millions celebrate, build awareness for, and inspire parents to exercise their right to select the very best educational journey for their children. Today, our choices open a world of possibilities through public, private, magnet, charter, cyber charter, online, home, and nontraditional options. Our choices collectively demonstrate there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all education and provide parents with a pathway to learning—whether their child is academically advanced, has a learning disability or physical or emotional challenges, or experiences an issue that makes learning in one environment or another unproductive.
Harnessing the power of school choice requires parents to actively learn about the different types of schools and educational options open to us. Then, we must look closely at our children, consider what we’ve learned, and ask ourselves, “Would their lives be enriched by a different course of education?” Or “Is their current educational environment harming them?” This process of building hope into education is what School Choice Week has been supporting for the past fourteen years.
(Photo Credit: Impressions by Jess Luna)
I am a proof of the criticality and power of school choice. If my mother hadn’t agreed to send me to Agora Cyber Charter School in 10th grade, I would be a high school dropout. Instead, I am an Agora graduate, a Penn State University graduate with a B.S. in psychology with a minor in rehabilitation and human services, am working on my master’s in clinical mental health counseling and I want to attend law school to eventually impact mental healthcare. And I’m a proud mother whose daughter is currently doing very well at our local brick-and-mortar public elementary school.
Moving from Jersey City to Allentown as an 8th grader was anxiety laden enough. I spent two years of public schooling constantly having to fight to learn—defending myself against kids doing typical “bad student things” on a much greater scale than I ever imagined was possible, and teachers who advised me to just let it go. The disruptions to my learning became too much to bear. My family weighed our choices and Agora rose to the top. It was a life-changing move focused on what I really cared about—learning.
Agora supported me beyond expectations, academically and socially. This was not like online district classes that leave you on your own. I had a Family Coach, teachers readily accessible to answer questions, and a counselor invested in helping me figure out what I wanted as a student and in a career, then making sure my academics supported it. I had access to classes like anthropology that filled my thirst for learning. I was nurtured to increase my responsibility, starting as a synchronous learner before advancing to asynchronous. The flexibility in scheduling allowed me to have a job to help support myself and my family financially. When I graduated in 2015, I was incredibly prepared for college.
Clearly Agora was for me. Parents and children do not have to settle for the drama and chaos that can come with a brick-and-mortar environment. Surround your children with positive people and experiences and you will have positive outcomes.
However, I also stress the importance of understanding your choices and making the right one for your child’s education. My mother made the best choice for me, and I’m paying it forward for my daughter. As empowering as Agora has been for me, the right choice for her today is public brick-and-mortar elementary school. As School Choice Week tells us, “When parents have educational freedom, great things happen.” They are happening for me. They will happen for my daughter. They can happen for your family, too—when you understand and exercise your ability to choose.
(Originally appeared in“The Morning Call”)