Parents say school choice is about right fit for child

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

GILBERT, Ariz. -- School choice is a term that comes with some political baggage in Arizona. But the fact is, parents have a lot of options for their children and many have embraced it.

Legacy Traditional School in Gilbert is a thriving charter school boasting 900 students. That’s where we sat in on part of Linda Brasier's sixth-grade class.

Aubrey Ewing was sitting near the front of the room. Her mother, Emily, moved her to this school following fourth grade.

Immersed in the culture of her neighborhood school, it wasn’t a decision she made lightly.

“My kids have always been in the public schools where there's a lot of group settings,” Emily Ewing said. “My middle daughter didn't do very well in that.”

Legacy offers a more rigorous and structured environment that Aubrey loved.

“She said, ‘Mom, look, my own desk,'” Ewing recalled.

Ewing is like many parents who embrace their neighborhood schools. Her oldest daughter, Megan, is in eighth grade and her youngest, Allison, is in second. But she first tried to bring Allison to Legacy to make transportation easier.

“And it wasn't the right fit for my youngest,” she said. “So, after giving it about a few weeks, we made the decision to actually move her back.”

Many parents ferry their kids to different schools. Some enroll them near their work. But as Ewing found out, it takes research to find the right environment.

“We've spent a lot of time and energy putting together a webpage called Education Evaluator,” said Ildiko Laczko-Kerr, vice president of academics with Arizona Charter Schools Association.

The evaluator shows schools on an Arizona map, color coded by the letter grade they receive from testing results. When you click on a school, the information beyond that letter grade shows up, such as number of students and per-pupil funding. There are other filters available.

“Once you've narrowed your focus to a couple of schools, then our recommendation is that you go visit those schools,”Laczko-Kerr said. “Learn a little about what makes that school unique or special, and whether that fits the needs of your family and your student.”

Maybe it doesn't fit your student. Maybe it is too far away from your home.

Ewing says, simply, you know your children. And choice lets you find a school to match their interests and skills.

“You know your child,” Ewing said. “They come home day in and day out, and you can tell when they are getting in that car and they are happy.”

There are a number of websites that let you search schools and see letter grades. Educators say that should just be a guideline when you start your search.

For more information, visit these websites:

www.greatschools.org/arizona

www.azed.gov/school-district-web-sites