Colorful billboards for different schools line the interstate. Parents drive through the city and see school signs boasting the best qualities through branding and marketing. But, what are the real benefits of them?
When parents are toggling between websites on their phones or laptops and considering the ideal school, what is the right move?
Magnets and charters are two options that Baton Rouge families are exploring. Often, these types of schools are either misunderstood or unfamiliar to parents. Though they are both outside of the traditional public school format, they each offer benefits to students and the community.
The Benefits of Charter Schools
Charter schools are public schools that are run by nonprofit organizations. At their core, every charter school is created to serve as an independent and innovative public school, which means free of tuition. In fact, the innovation in curriculum is one of the benefits of charter schools, says Chris Meyer, the CEO of New Schools for Baton Rouge. He explains, “Charters increase the diversity of options, and different curriculum models inject new innovations into our education marketplace.”
Charters can develop curriculum to meet specific needs, like rigor at BASIS Baton Rouge or catching students up at Collegiate Baton Rouge.
One parent who has chosen charter schools appreciates the innovative approach. Tiffany Dunn selected Louisiana Key Academy (LKA) for her daughter Keilyn due to a dyslexia diagnosis and the lack of specialized education in public schools. Louisiana Key Academy, as a charter, is free to create its own unique curriculum for children who are living with dyslexia who are attending the school.
Dunn explains how LKA has impacted her daughter. “Since starting at LKA, Keilyn has blossomed in a way that is only possible by being taught by teachers who are language specialists and trained to work with dyslexic children. Her self esteem has grown exponentially because she has confidence again. She’s now reading regularly whereas when she started, she struggled to even recognize letters. Finding a charter school with a specialization that we needed benefited us by providing the education that our daughter needed.”
In addition to providing innovative approaches to education, charter schools offer options in which the schools have authority over how resources are spent. Meyer elaborates, “The nature of charter schools forces resources closer to the kids. A public school district board and superintendent have to think of 40,000 students instead of 400 students in one school. Charters allow for a more personal focus on their kids.”
Each charter has its own governing board that makes such decisions for its respective school, faculty, and students.
The Benefits of Magnet Schools
Magnet schools, on the other hand, are specialized schools that are public and managed by the East Baton Rouge Parish School System (EBRPSS).
Magnet schools also provide diverse choices for Baton Rouge families. “Magnet Schools were developed to create exciting learning experiences that promote academic achievement for students with specific educational needs,” says Theresa Porter, the East Baton Rouge Parish Magnet School Director. “These specialized programs offer students a quality education based on their learning styles, skills, and interests. The district offers dynamic, specialized programs, such as foreign language immersion, Montessori, visual, performing arts, digital arts and pre-engineering themes.”
Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet (FLAIM) is one of those Magnet programs that meets a specific need.
Danielle Porche and her husband were looking for an immersion program for their daughter, and FLAIM was the right choice. “The language component was huge because we are bilingual. She’s only been in immersion for two and a half years, and she is almost fluent. Her accent is out of this world. At FLAIM, the person teaching in the immersion language has to be a native speaker.”
Magnet schools can also focus on other academic specialties. Mayfair Lab specializes in Green STEM programs. Min-Joung Kim chose Mayfair Lab for her two sons because of the dual teacher approach through third grade, which includes a master teacher. She has been pleased with the “the stable environment and the positive attitude towards schooling.”
Magnet schools are also a “proven model to increase diversity in the district,” states Porter.
Diversity of ethnicity and class is often a priority for parents who choose magnet schools. Both Porche and Kim agree that the diversity of the student population was a motivating factor in selecting East Baton Rouge Parish School System magnet schools. “My daughter has benefited from the diversity,” Porche shares. “I feel like she has a better contextual understanding of her community. I think that’s a beautiful thing to give her some awareness about her city.”
Kim also believes that diversity is a strength. She says, “I don’t see just one culture represented. I love to see all the different cultures when we go see music performances and go to school activities.”
Both mothers also stress that they have been impressed with their children’s academic success both in standardized test scores and on report cards.
The Right Choice
To choose the best course of education for their child, parents need to research all the options and analyze what specific interests and needs their child has. Only the parent knows what environment will best fit their child. The only way to know for sure, though, is to go and see the schools personally.
One key to remember while making your decision is that no charter or magnet is the same. Magnets and charters are all created differently, so explore them, and you will discover the right school for your entire family.