“I believe in school choice and I also believe in traditional public education. That’s my choice!” Keisha Spells, Parent Advocate
Four squares represents the perspective of a parent and employee of both public traditional schools and public charter schools. Parent advocate Keisha Spells shares her experience in both worlds and in both roles.
At the beginning of the interview, Ms. Spells shared: “Over the years, I have discovered that there are definitely clear differences between both public traditional and public charter schools. Resources are the number one challenge for both. Textbooks are hard to come by in public traditional schools and obsolete in public charter schools. Access to facilities that are adequate in size and functionality continue to be an obstacle for public charter schools. Additionally, internal resources such as staffing for programs to address students with special needs, social-emotional learning and therapeutic services often are unavailable.
However, public traditional schools generally have challenges with implementing programs and enforcing family/community involvement. Food service also has been an obstacle within public traditional schools as many families desire healthier food choice options for their children. Although public schools generally have access to adequate resources, they tend to struggle with ensuring that access is available to students beyond the walls of the school.”
Ms. Spells continues to describe her experience in the interview below.
What are some challenges charter schools have in connecting to public traditional schools?
Some of the challenges that charter schools have in connecting to public traditional schools include the myths that prevent the two institutions from working together. Since many parents have experienced traditional public schools, there are those who have chosen to send their children to charter schools as a result of expectations not being met.
What are some challenges that you’ve seen in both public traditional and public charter schools?
Traditional and charter schools have difficulty fostering a relationship between the two entities because the theory is that charter schools became a school of comfort for families seeking an outlet from traditional public schools.
Describe your experience as a parent in both public traditional and public charter schools?
As a mom of three, I experienced early the importance of being engaged within in my children’s educational journey. As a parent in traditional schools, I noticed that parental/family engagement was farce. Although I appreciated every opportunity, I observed staff at the school become discouraged when parents were not involved. However, I loved the extracurricular activities of the school that my children participated in.
The experiences my children had in the traditional school environment helped them become more social. Subsequently, the public charter school challenged them academically. The public charter school provided a more rigorous learning environment. The public charter school created a “family-orientated” atmosphere encouraging parents like myself to stay engaged. I certainly did not like the
What has your experience been as an employee in a public traditional school and public charter schools?
I love my job! I have a good schedule and I get the opportunity to interface with all stakeholders at my school. A few years ago when I began working in the field of education, I had no idea how much “red tape” was involved in working at a public traditional school. From ordering resources, to organizing an event, working at a public traditional school has definitely had its challenges. I’ve observed curriculums, assessments and methods of instruction transform several times as leadership explored what would work best for students.
These trial and error episodes have left children deprived and parents seeking alternative learning institutions for their children to attend.
Ms. Spells feels that public charter schools have offered teachers and staff in-classroom flexibility, but struggle to provide resources to promote instruction. She notes that resources can sometimes be limited in both settings. What helps is exposure to substitute learning materials that allows staff opportunities to differentiate learning.
Accountability measures for increasing family engagement are supported by highly encouraging, structured and intentional involvement of parents to help their kids achieve academic success.
However, as a current employee at a public charter school, like in traditional schools, Ms. Spells indicated that often times there isn’t access to financial resources due to extremely tight budgets.
We need reform in education that equally supports both public traditional and public charter schools for the success of all children.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.