We live in an age when everything is changing – everything, that is, except traditional public schools. While traditional schooling remains suitable for many families, too many parents are stuck in a time warp where education hasn’t caught up with the needs of their children.
Fortunately for families, the alternatives to traditional public schools are richer and more abundant than ever. The advent of the internet added cyber charter schools to the menu of alternatives to public school, such as charter, religious and independent schools. Cyber charter schools bring tuition-free, high-quality learning directly to the home, where children are safe and parents are in control.
Still, parents have questions. What are nontraditional schools? Here, we explain the choices facing parents who are determined to find a better way to educate their children.
Why Consider Nontraditional Public Schools?
Common sense tells us the things that schools need to be safe and responsive. They need more and better mental health services. They need to enforce anti-bullying policies. They need to adopt a personalized approach, recognizing that every child learns differently.
Unfortunately, many traditional public schools don’t follow those paths, but families are learning that traditional public school alternatives offer new hope. Why should they consider alternatives to public school?
Worried About School Safety
Surveys show that parents worry more than ever about the safety of their children at school. The vast majority support an increase in mental health screening and services for students. Students themselves recognize that appropriate mental health services can steer their classmates away from violence. Plus, from their vantage point, they keep saying that the daily disruptions of bullying and fighting make the school atmosphere worse than fears of active shooters.
And yet the policymakers and educators responsible for making fundamental reforms sit on their hands. Whether through misconceptions or lack of funding, traditional schools simply haven’t done enough. That leaves families to fret over the safety of their children, while students are forced to endure anxiety instead of enjoying learning.
Preference for a Different Learning Environment
Gray walls. Long rows of desks. Cookie-cutter lesson plans. Bells ringing to signal the march to the next class.
Today’s children didn’t sign up for delivery of education that hasn’t changed in 100 years. As studies show, but traditional educators rarely acknowledge, the most effective learning environments are dynamic and student-focused.
These alternatives also accommodate the schedules and unique circumstances of each family. Too often, household daily routines just don’t mesh with school schedules, cramping the ability of children to learn at their own pace and to engage in imaginative learning. Many nontraditional schools don’t demand that families adapt to them. They go the other way – designing their systems to suit the needs of families and students.
Access to a Flexible and Customized Education
Children learn differently, through visuals, images, hands-on work or words. If a child’s learning style isn’t accommodated, they can fall behind academically, out of frustration or inability to grasp new concepts simply because they’re taught in the wrong way.
Alternatives to public schools have the flexibility and the commitment to get to know each student personally. They can create learning environments that are supportive and challenging – for instance, supporting students who might need a little more encouragement to join class discussions, while challenging them to broaden their understanding of new concepts. Children who need more time can learn at their own pace. Gifted children who need stimulation to avoid boredom can get advanced coursework that sparks intellectual curiosity.
Many alternative schools also are keenly aware that schools aren’t siloes separated from the real world. Children need to know what all their learning is going to accomplish. When they are introduced to career possibilities from an early age and guided along learning paths that develop their unique talents and interests, they are prepared for life after graduation, whether that leads to college, career training, military service or the workforce.
6 Common Alternatives to Traditional Public School
What are nontraditional schools? There are many choices. The options might seem intimidating, but the important thing is they offer hope to families who know in their hearts that their children deserve better. Whether a child needs to escape bullying, learn at a different pace or pursue a passion on their own time, the right school can make all the difference.
In essence, charter schools are granted approval from state public education departments and local school districts to operate independently. These approvals are known as “charters,” extended to nonprofit organizations established to operate a school.
Charter schools must meet the same standards of accountability required of traditional public schools, but how they do that is up to them. They have the freedom to design curricula and deliver education that serve the distinct needs of their students and families.
Children who attend charter schools take all of the standardized tests that their traditional-school peers take, but their classroom days can look very different. Lesson plans might be more flexible. Teachers might be more creative. And because they were created to address the demand by families for customized education solutions, many charter schools are designed to give parents and teachers a greater say in how schooling is delivered.
In Pennsylvania, charter schools are publicly funded through the same pool of taxpayer money that finances traditional school districts, so there are no additional costs to families to enroll their children in public charter schools.
Cyber Charter Schools
Like charter schools, cyber charter schools are allowed to operate by state public education departments. They are public and tuition-free, and they adhere to state standards while offering lessons through innovative means. However, these schools aren’t confined to brick-and-mortar settings. In fact, unlike brick-and-mortar charter schools, Pennsylvania cyber charter schools don’t need approval from local school districts to operate. Instead, they deliver high-quality, flexible schooling to families and children statewide.
In the digital age, cyber charter schools are flourishing as a viable alternative to traditional public schools. By harnessing technology, they are revolutionizing education and dispensing with the limitations of brick-and-mortar schools. It’s all designed according to the needs of families. Students might take live interactive online classes with teachers and classmates all sitting at their computers at the same time, or they might pursue customized studies on their own timelines, supervised by teachers. Many schools offer a blend of both to expand families’ options even more.
It’s important to know that cyber learning requires at-home involvement of parents, caregivers and learning coaches, especially for younger children. Many parents worry that cyber learning would deprive their children of socialization opportunities, but most cyber charter schools offer a rich array of clubs and field trips. In Pennsylvania, state law also requires that local school districts open extracurricular activities to charter and cyber charter school students.
Some public school districts offer magnet schools that focus on a particular area of study. In these environments, students study core subjects but also delve deeply into their interests and talents, including the performing arts, languages, career and technical education, international studies or STEM.
Before students are accepted, many magnet schools require an application and perhaps an audition. Magnet schools can serve children at any grade level, depending on how the schools are structured. As public schools they are tuition-free, but enrollment can be limited to children within the school district boundaries. Some magnet schools are so popular that acceptance is not guaranteed and families must submit to a lottery that awards enrollment.
For decades, many parents have chosen to guide and direct their children’s education themselves. It’s a commitment driven by personal philosophy, religious beliefs or limited options.
Although requirements vary by state, home schooling doesn’t free parents from meeting state-designated educational standards. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the in-home teacher – usually a parent or caregiver – must hold a high school degree or equivalent. Portfolios of student work samples are submitted annually for review by a state-approved home education evaluator. Students must take required courses at certain grade levels, and they must take standardized tests in third, fifth and eighth grades. Receiving a diploma requires meeting state graduation requirements.
Today’s home-school families are greatly aided by the cyber charter school movement. Although traditional, self-directed home schooling remains an option, cyber learning lets parents remain involved but also offers support from state-certified teachers who are experts in teaching and subject matters.
Religious Private Schools
Faith-based organizations, whether churches, synagogues, mosques or other communities formed around shared religious beliefs, have long offered their own schools. While the traditional core subjects are taught, faith is infused into the programming. Often, faith lessons and worship are built into the daily schedule. Enrollment could be open to families outside the faith.
Religious private schools include parochial schools, which are associated with a specific faith community, such as a church.
Private schools receive little or no public financial support, which frees them from many of the regulations imposed on public schools. Their funding is usually derived from the supporting faith group and from tuition fees. Tuition can vary, and some families might have access to scholarships.
Boarding and Independent Schools
Not every private school is affiliated with a particular faith. Families might choose these private, independent schools because they offer such distinctions as an international baccalaureate degree or innovative learning free from traditional classroom restraints.
Independent schools are run by boards of governors or trustees who determine the curriculum and educational philosophy. They might be coed or single sex. Some are day schools, where children come for the day just like their public school peers. Other families choose boarding schools to immerse their children in the school culture throughout the school year.
Like their religious counterparts, independent schools usually charge tuition and might have scholarships available.
When Alternative Options May Be Ideal for Your Child
How does a parent or caregiver know when an alternative learning school is the right choice? It’s a difficult decision but one that must be made in the best interests of the child. It’s always the right time to consider the benefits that a nontraditional school offers.
- Personalized learning. Whether it’s additional support for subjects in which your child struggles or challenging coursework for the gifted student, nontraditional schools go the extra mile to meet your child’s needs.
- Flexibility for the student. Maybe the pace at your child’s current school is too fast or too slow. Maybe your child struggles to keep up with schoolwork while playing sports or training in dance, music or drama. Your child deserves the chance to make it all work to suit their needs.
- Flexibility for the family. Parents and caregivers juggle a variety of obligations to their employers, military service, community, churches and relatives. None should be an afterthought to school. Many nontraditional schools give families the agility to work, travel and care for loved ones while keeping pace with their children’s education.
- Parental control. Many forms of nontraditional schooling demand extra effort from parents, but it’s a commitment they’re willing to make. Parents of nontraditional school students know what their children are learning every day. When children are learning from home, parents get peace of mind from knowing that their child is safe.
- Zero tolerance for bullying. Too few traditional public schools take bullying seriously enough. And yet studies show that bullying and cyberbullying hinder academic achievement and diminish students’ self-confidence for life. Many alternative schools see a large number of children escaping the horrors of bullying at their former schools, so they treat it as a serious matter. Zero-tolerance policies help children heal from the effects of bullying and stamp out bullying at the first sign.
- Special education. Families shouldn’t have to fight to get high-quality education for special learners. Nontraditional alternatives to public schools can customize learning and empower parents to remain involved as their child grows in capabilities. Cyber charter schools offer the advantage of learning from home, in safe environments where students are comfortable and parents are assured that their child’s well-being is secure.
Find a Traditional Public School Alternative in CCA
Your children change. They live in a very different time than the era when you grew up. Why hasn’t their school kept pace? The digital age brings flexible, customized schooling directly to families, in the form of cyber charter learning delivered in the comfort and safety of their homes.
Parents unhappy with their children’s current schools don’t have to put up with the unacceptable. Kids of all abilities deserve schooling that unleashes their full potential. They deserve learning that’s fun and engaging. They deserve to spend their days in safety, free from violence and bullies. They deserve the chance to pursue their passions. Reach out to Commonwealth Charter Academy to find out why our schooling alternative is ideal for you.