Opinion

Campanella: Arizona families should start school searching now for fall semester

Posted 1/17/22

As learning disruptions hit national headlines, again, school decisions are top-of-mind for many Arizona parents. While the circumstances are unfortunate, it’s not a bad time for families to be thinking about school choice options for next school year.

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Opinion

Campanella: Arizona families should start school searching now for fall semester

Posted

As learning disruptions hit national headlines, again, school decisions are top-of-mind for many Arizona parents. While the circumstances are unfortunate, it’s not a bad time for families to be thinking about school choice options for next school year.

Finding a good learning fit can take time, because each student is unique. Arizona has more than 1.1 million K-12 students — which one is yours? Is your child the rare student with a natural appreciation for Shakespeare’s literary prowess? Does your child feel trapped in her classroom, wishing to be working a job already, putting real-world skills into motion?

Each of the more than 1.1 million K-12 students in Arizona has his or her own unique blend of talents, interests, and challenges. What lights up one child’s mind and heart may leave another unmoved.

After more than 15 years of working in education and talking to thousands of parents and teachers, I’ve heard so many student stories with a common theme.

As parents begin to navigate their options for the upcoming school year, I want to offer one action item that can transform how much your child learns and who they become:

In your school searches, look for a school that cultivates your child’s curiosity. For kids, curiosity is the best bridge to learning. It’s also a bridge to happiness.

Arizona families who have tasted the benefits of customizing education to match their child’s curiosity and interests celebrate it, and want more of it.

Giving families choices to customize education doesn’t mean building 1.1 million different schools in Arizona.

Sometimes the biggest block to customizing education is simply not knowing about the school options and support groups for learning that already exist. The pandemic forced many parents to encounter new school options, but more knowledge-sharing needs to be done.

Currently, Arizona families can choose from several free public school options, including traditional public schools with flexible open enrollment, public charter schools, public magnet schools and full-time online academies.

Families can also choose from Arizona private schools, and Arizona offers a variety of state-run scholarship programs. Homeschooling is a flexible option available in Arizona and every state.

Within each of these six main types of options, there’s room for plenty of customization. Maybe it’s a public school partnering with businesses to create work opportunities for high schoolers who don’t thrive being in a classroom eight hours a day.

Maybe because of that partnership, high schoolers don’t drop out. Instead, they walk across the graduation stage with valuable skills they’re proud of under their belt.

Maybe it’s a teacher at a performing arts magnet school who absolutely loves teaching in an arts-centered environment. Her passion is contagious, inspiring a future generation of musicians.

Or, maybe it’s a private school mom who notices her 7-year-old’s interest in space and takes the time to watch SpaceX launches with him, after which he excitedly dreams of managing a spaceflight company, which he’ll name “Reach for the Stars.”

Customizing for curiosity can appear in many shapes; at heart, it’s pairing kids with the environment and learning conditions that help them flourish. When we personalize how we care for pets, our choice of cars, what we eat for dinner, and every other aspect of American life, how much more important is customization in our kids’ education?

This School Choice Week, I encourage you to think about little and large ways to cultivate your child’s curiosity. Wouldn’t it be incredible if more than 1.1 million Arizona kids were learning in environments where they were challenged and inspired?

I’ve seen the success stories that happen when communities provide flexibility and families find the best fit for them.

Especially in light of continued learning disruptions, all Arizona kids need that.

Editor’s note: Andrew R. Campanella is the president of National School Choice Week and the author of “The School Choice Roadmap: 7 Steps to Finding the Right School for Your Child.”

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