A Black Parent’s Perspective on Public Schools

We’re too busy taking parent’s right to choose away that we aren’t listening to their experiences in public schools. “I believe in school choice and I also believe in traditional public education. . . that’s my choice!”, says long time Atlanta advocate, Keisha Spells. Regardless of what a parent decides, we should never be in a position to take their choice away.

Spells represents the perspective of a parent and employee of both public traditional schools and public charter schools. As a parent advocate, Keisha Spells is raising Black sons in Atlanta Public Schools. She’s had good and bad encounters in both traditional and non traditional public schools. She believes that by sharing her experiences in both may help other Black parents better understand school choice .

Resources are the number one challenge for both traditional and non traditional schools in Black communities. Textbooks are hard to come by in most public traditional schools and are pretty much 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.

“There are definitely clear differences between both public traditional and public charter schools.”

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.

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.

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.

Do schools overlook the experience of parents in public schools?

Yes they do. Especially Black parents. As a mom of three, Spells experienced early on the importance of being engaged within in her children’s educational journey. As a parent in traditional schools, she noticed that parental/family engagement was farce. Although she appreciated every opportunity, she 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 Black boys 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

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.

We need reform in education that equally supports both public traditional and public charter schools for the success of all children. 


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