Improving education for Colorado students

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What parent doesn’t want the best for their children? As a mother of two daughters myself, I want to give them the chance to learn, grow, achieve their hopes and dreams, and live a better future than I could ever imagine. This National School Choice Week provides us the opportunity to reflect on the ways in which school choice helps empower parents, and in so doing helps children to succeed.

School choice might sound like a controversial concept, but at its core, choice gives parents the ability to select the best options for their sons and daughters. No one knows their child’s unique needs, wants, talents and aspirations better than a parent, and no one can serve as a better advocate on behalf of their child.

At Parents Challenge, we believe that every parent should have access to a quality education that meets their child’s needs — regardless of income. We work to provide scholarships for parents, and give them the tools — grants for expenses like transportation and uniforms, along with guidance about their various educational options — to select the school with the best fit for their children. We also engage parents as active participants in their children’s education, for instance by requiring them to attend mentoring and advocacy sessions. Our results since 2000 show great promise. We have delivered on the promise of choice to more than 2,400 students, providing millions of dollars in aid. More than 88 percent of parents report their children are performing at proficient or advanced levels in their new schools.

Best of all, nearly nine in 10 students missed fewer than a week of classes in their new school — 55 percent missed one to four days, and nearly one-third missed no days of school at all. When matched with the right learning environment, children’s natural enthusiasm for learning and achievement can shine forth, making them look forward to the wonders that each new day of school brings.

Results like these demonstrate the importance of school choice, and how organizations like Parents Challenge try to make a difference. No parent should feel the helplessness that comes from seeing their child in a poor learning environment that does not meet their needs. We want to replace that helplessness with hope, and with power — the power for parents to hold their schools accountable, and the power to select the option that works best for their children.

This National School Choice Week, parents, teachers, educators and students will gather at 40,000 events the week of Jan. 20-26. These events will demonstrate the millions of satisfied school choice recipients nationwide, and highlight the achievements — and the hope — that school choice brings. During that same week, Parents Challenge will also run a school fair that showcases the many quality educational options in and around Colorado Springs. The fair will allow parents to consider the best school for their children and start the process of applying for scholarships for the coming school year.

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Even as we take pride in our thousands of successful students, we anticipate the future achievements of more students given the opportunity that school choice provides. We won’t rest until every parent has the chance to give their child the quality education that their sons and daughters deserve — both in Colorado Springs, and across the country.

Deborah Hendrix is the executive director of Parents Challenge. She has served as a board member for both a traditional public and charter school. She can be reached at info@parentschallenge.org.

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