By Addie Price
An option in education can make all the difference in the world. I didn’t know anything about charter schools before I applied for my daughter to attend a new charter school opening in our community about a year and a half ago. All I knew was that my daughter, who was incredibly bright – teachers had even said she was brilliant – was going into seventh grade in advanced classes but was reading on a second grade level because she has a form of dyslexia.
Her teachers and school told me their hands were tied and they couldn’t give her any further reading assistance unless she was failing. In other words, she did not qualify for help. Although her grades were still high her self-esteem suffered the most. She was made fun of by her peers, never spoke up in class and was not very active socially with any of the other students.
I knew that if my daughter continued into middle school and then high school at the traditional public school system she would get lost in the crack she was rapidly slipping through. It wasn’t that she had bad teachers or even a bad school. They had done all they were allowed to do. But her teachers operated in an environment that I have decided stifled their innovation.
At home, we knew we needed another approach. I did some research and found that charter schools are public schools that operate with fewer regulations and teach to the individual student. The bells began going off and I knew that this was exactly what my daughter needed.
My daughter was one of the lucky ones who were accepted into Cherokee Charter Academy via the lottery system (because they had more applicants than seats available). From the moment we first stepped into the school I knew this was the perfect fit, because my daughter was not expected to fit into a predetermined mold. This definitely was not one size fits all.
I focused on her language arts and reading teachers because my daughter has a form of dyslexia which causes her to insert words other than what is on the paper when she is reading. That makes it impossible for her to get her thoughts onto paper. Her language arts teacher had new ideas that we had never tried before. These were simple yet potentially effective ideas and we couldn’t wait to get started using them.
That first year at Cherokee Charter Academy transformed my daughter. She was elected to student government. A girl who could not raise her hand in class to answer a question was now speaking to students at an assembly and reading announcements to the school every Tuesday morning. When you are a parent and you see changes like that you know something is working.
When CRCT test results were reported my daughter received a perfect score in math. She missed exceeding in reading by just four points. At the end of the year she received the Language Arts Excellence Award. This was the subject that she had struggled with the most. Her teacher knew that she had not only tried the hardest but had been able to overcome the most and was exceeding at a subject she once found unbearable. She now had such confidence in her studies that she joined a book club and was reading books like Forrest Gump with pleasure.
Before classes began this year the school told me my daughter had been recommended for one of two positions in the newly formed Cambridge program. She is currently an eighth grader who is taking two high school freshman honors courses and one sophomore honors course.
At the end of this year she will be able to take Georgia high school exams to receive high school credit as well as an opportunity to take exams through Cambridge University to possibly receive college credit. If she continues with the Cambridge program she could potentially earn two years of college credit by the time she receives her high school diploma.
In addition to these academic accomplishments my daughter made history as the First Student Government President for Cherokee Charter Academy. Maddison Alish Faulkner has overcome so much and now walks with her head held high and raises her hand in class without hesitation.
(Addie Price is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County and the mother of three children, two of whom attend a public charter school. This article was written for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.) (This article was republished by the Brighter Georgia Education Coalition.)
As an employer, and a parent and a graduate of Georgia public schools, I am pleased that the Foundation has undertaken this project. (The report card) provides an excellent tool for parents and educators to objectively evaluate our public high schools. It will further serve a useful purpose as a benchmark for the future to measure our schools’ progress.