Empower Families With Knowledge to Choose the Right School

Parents are highly motivated to find the right schools for their kids, but they need help to find reliable, useful information.

The Houston Chronicle proclaims with pride that Houston is a leading city for school choice. But:

The problem? Facing all those choices can leave even the savviest parent bewildered. How do you compare schools’ abilities to teach reading and math? Which schools have bus service, or are free, or offer scholarships, or are priced reasonably? Which require tests or auditions? Which are best at propelling kids to college? When and how do you apply? What should you look for when you tour a school? And after you’ve enrolled your kid, what can you expect of the principal and the teachers?

“Helping families find good schools”, Houston Chronicle, September 9, 2012. In Houston, parents can get help from FamiliesEmpowered, a nonprofit. From its mission statement:

FamiliesEmpowered strives to increase parents’ awareness of educational options, offers training and guidance on how to choose a school, and empowers parents to appropriately engage with their child’s school and advocate on their child’s behalf. . . .

FamiliesEmpowered is the only organization dedicated to ensuring parents have access to free, credible, third party information – about ALL school options (public, private, charter and parochial), as well as the support they need to look for and succeed in the school of their choice.

FamiliesEmpowered publishes a newsletter and hosts events, including the FamiliesEmpowered Education and Health Expo 2012, where parents can get information from over 150 schools.

New Orleans, even more than Houston, has a large number of families making choices about schools. The Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation recently announced $15 million in grants to groups in New Orleans, with two goals:

One of the Arnold Foundation’s goals is to encourage more native Louisians to pursue careers in education, in the hope of generating a steady local supply of teachers. The grantees also will seek to “increase awareness of school options for parents, particularly among the high-poverty population that is served by New Orleans public schools.”

“Arnold Foundation Backs Effort to Strengthen New Orleans Teaching”, Sean Cavanagh, Charters & Choice blog (Education Week), September 28, 2012.

Already, New Orleans’s Recovery School District allows parents to file one application (called, appropriately, “OneApp”) to access all the charter schools in RSD, and other area charter schools may join soon. “New Orleans schools need one application for all” (editorial), New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 29, 2012; “New Orleans OneApp school registration is important and needs to be done with care” (letter), Caroline Roemer Shirley, New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 25, 2012.

Another New Orleans innovation: the New Orleans Parent Organizing Network publishes the New Orleans Parents’ Guide to Public Schools.

On the topic of New Orleans: here’s an earlier post about charter schools on HBO’s “Treme.”

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A nonprofit that helps parents to research school options and become advocates for high quality education.