August 31, 2015

Searching for outstanding schools?

Published 8:36 am Thursday, August 13, 2015

Guest Viewpoint

by Andra Self

We’ve heard a lot of talk lately in Texas about how necessary it is for parents to have the chance to make the best choice for their children’s education. However, choosing a school can be challenging. There seem to be so many options these days. From private schools to home schooling to virtual schools to the neighborhood public school just down the street, how do you know what is right for your child?

Find the facts

Don’t base your decision on hearsay or where your neighbor sends his kids. Finding the right school is important. Your child either thrives in the school or falls behind.

I am a strong fan and outspoken advocate of Texas public schools. There are many great sources of information about public schools in our state. If you are new to Texas public schools, you might want to check out the My Texas Public School website. It is designed to provide reliable background information on how Texas public schools are structured and function. Other excellent sources of information include the Stand Up website and a website dedicated to helping you know what is correct and what is not: Truth About Schools.

Cut to the chase

I’ve been involved with Texas public schools for many years, first as a student, then as a parent, and now as a locally elected school board member and president of the Texas Association of School Boards. All of those hours focusing on schools have led me to a firm conclusion: if you are searching for outstanding schools, you may find that they are closer than you expect! In fact, there is a good chance that the Texas public school just down the street may outshine all the other options once you have the facts. Here are some of the reasons why public schools generally win in the comparisons:

  • Wide range of academic courses—generally speaking, public schools across the state offer many more choices of study, ranging from Chinese or Russian to robotics and rocketry;
  • Variety of extracurricular activities—this list is long, including music, theater, dance, all kinds of sports, ROTC, service clubs, and more;
  • Highly-rated, experienced teachers—whether you are looking at the federal definition of a “highly qualified teacher” or just looking at years in the classroom, public school teachers outshine teachers at other schools;
  • Additional services—public schools provide a wide range of services for students who have special needs, are English language learners, or who just need help from a nurse or counselor;
  • A voice in the decision-making (elected boards, public meetings)—if you choose a public school, you will get to elect the decision-makers and have clear information about the goals and operations of the school;
  • Proven track record in your community—your public schools have served your community well over the years, unlike some competitors who recently set up shop and have no history of accomplishment;
  • Open to all students—public schools are purposefully established for all children, regardless of the child’s background, ethnicity, economic status, or other qualifying characteristics.

 Take a serious look

Let me urge all parents to take the time to learn the facts about schools in your area. Take the time to visit the school, meet the teachers, and establish a relationship that will support your child’s educational experience. I am a firm believer that a school will produce well-educated students and be a strong focal point in the community when parents are engaged.

I think you will find that public schools in Texas are outstanding, offering more of what’s important for your child’s education than any of the other options. Texas public schools are truly the best choice!

Andra Self is President of the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) and serves on the Lufkin ISD Board of Trustees. TASB is a nonprofit association established in 1949 to serve local public school districts. School board members are the largest group of publicly elected officials in the state. The districts they represent serve more than 5.1 million students