Charter and Alternative Schools
Many public school districts offer parents excellent choices in addition to the regular schools. These may be labeled as charter schools or alternative schools; in general such schools receive public funding and must meet some guidelines of your district, but are free to use different curriculums and strategies for teaching. The philosophies and programs of these schools cover a wide spectrum, ranging from schools that are highly structured and offer a challenging academic curriculum to schools that are innovative and focus on creating a hands-on, child-centered environment. Some schools are parent co-ops, with a high level of parent involvement in the classroom and in planning outside activities.
What is a charter school?
A charter school is a publicly funded school that is typically governed by a group or organization under a contract with the state, which exempts it from selected rules and regulations. In the year 2001, there were almost 2,000 public charter schools in the 37 states that allowed them.
Your district may also have magnet schools. Magnet schools generally are schools with a special focus, such as arts or science and technology. You are more likely to find magnet schools at the middle school or high school level. Some are open to all students in the district whereas others may require that the child demonstrate a special aptitude or talent.
In considering a school, focus on your child's personality and his strengths. Of course you will also want to consider what services each school offers for children with dyslexia and whether the curriculum used will fit your child's needs. But it is a mistake to focus exclusively on your child's areas of weaknesses, because ideally you want to select a school where your child will be happy, will be able to make friends, and will enjoy participating in school activities beyond the classroom.
As with choosing a specific program for dyslexia, there is no one best answer for choosing a school. Part of your choice will be based on your own preferences and expectations for your child, and part will be based on your child's wants and needs. Thus, it is important for you and your child to visit a prospective school rather than rely on the school's local reputation or factors such as standardized test scores. The “best” school in the district may not be best for your child — it may be a place where your child simply encounters demands that he cannot possibly live up to, whereas a school with a lesser reputation may be a place where he can shine and receive far more attention and support from his teachers.