DARKE COUNTY — Each January, as Ohio parents and caregivers receive their children’s mid-year report cards and school assessments (and students look for the return of spring and warmer weather), the task of evaluating what is (and isn’t) working in the classroom causes many to question and explore what educational options are available to strengthen learning and retention.
Parents and educators, alike, desire that students achieve important grade-level benchmarks in essential subjects, such as reading, writing, math, and science. Yet, much debate is devoted each year to the discussion of how, and by what means, such basic and necessary skills are honed and advanced, as well as the financial and emotional cost of student success or failure.
Many K-12 options exist from which parents and caregivers can make informed decisions for their children, from considering classroom size, school environment, and curricula, to exploring individual learning style, character development, and social well-being. As Ohioans celebrate School Choice Week (Jan. 24 to 30), families can consider the three basic educational avenues available to promote academic success — public school, private school, and home education.
Traditional public schools are free to attend and widely available for families throughout the state. Because Ohio is one of the many states nationwide to offer “open enrollment,” which allows students to attend public schools outside of their own school districts, parents will often look to a school’s status, state ranking (“report card”), and curricula to guide them in their choice. Often, the “open enrollment” public school option can assist economically disadvantaged students gain access to academic programs and other technology not widely available within their own school districts, affording them a wider spectrum of future opportunities. Magnet public schools are also available in several Ohio counties, and often focus on specific themes, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) or the performing arts (music, theater, dance, visual arts).
Charter public schools are another free option accessible to Ohio parents and students, which allow for greater flexibility in class size, instruction and pedagogy. In Ohio, charter public schools can be opened after they are authorized by school districts, colleges or universities, nonprofit organizations, other agencies, or the state. Charter public schools may also benefit economically and socially disadvantaged students who may thrive in a less formal, or traditional academic classroom environment. As with the traditional public school, charter public schools must demonstrate student accountability to maintain their credentials.
Online public schools are permanent, fully-online, and free educational options that teach students through digital classes. Some Ohio online (“virtual”) public schools are Northwest Ohio Virtual Academy, Ohio Virtual Academy, Ohio Connections Academy, and Ohio Digital Learning School.
Private schools are widely available school options throughout Ohio, requiring tuition payment for attendance. Non-public charter schools often promote a specific alternative curriculum or pedagogy to that of the traditional public or charter public school options; for example, some schools are guided by specific educational philosophy (Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Waldorf, Paideia, Language-immersion), as well as religious beliefs or affiliation (parochial, catholic, orthodox, evangelical, Christian, and non-denominational). However, Ohio offers some state-run scholarship programs for students with autism spectrum disorders, students from low-income families, and students assigned to under-performing schools. Additional private sources of funding, such as scholarships and grants, may be available based upon talent or need.
In Greenville, private school choices exist for parents and students looking for a change. DeColores Montessori School, located at 312 Central Avenue, is is a chartered non-public school for grades K-9 and a certified Ohio Department of Human Services pre-school and day care provider. DeColores Montessori Jr. High (7th-9th grades) is a traditional Montessori farm school located at 6104 Arcanum Bears Mill Road, also in Greenville, Ohio. St. Mary’s Elementary School, located at 238 W. 3rd Street, is a Catholic PK-8 Elementary School which endeavors to treat each student as an individual and to educate and work with the whole child, working closely with parents to help each child reach maximum ability; intellectually, spiritually, socially, and physically.
Home education allows parents and caregivers the freedom to assume full responsibility for the K-12 education of their children. Parents must provide an annual notification to the state (or school district) of their intent to homeschool. The state requires homeschooling parents to teach specific subjects and also requires some level of assessment, testing, or evaluation of homeschooled students’ academic progress and proficiency. A wide variety of curricula and study options are available to parents who intend to home educate their children, ranging from online academy courses, CD and digital media courses with texts, traditional texts and tests, educational co-ops (academic enrichment courses and social gatherings), and learning ‘pods,’ (homeschool students studying individual subjects together). In addition to these offerings, homeschooled students may opt to participate in sports, music and arts programs through their local school district.
Throughout Darke County, homeschool choices exist for parents seeking curricula and academic support options for their children. Basic Christian Education, BCE Academy, and the Emmaus Learning Center, located 7511 Palestine Union City Road, in Greenville, have been providing support to parents and students for almost four decades. The BCE Academy, which uses the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE)’s homeschool curriculum,, is accredited through the National Association of Private Schools (NAPS). Emmaus Learning Center, which has been helping students since 1994, offers a co-op experience for parents and students who seek a classroom environment throughout each week. Both BCE and Emmaus Learning Center welcome questions from those who might be interested in homeschooling by emailing BCE@BasicChristianEducation.com, or calling 937-548-1155.
Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for Darke County Media. She can be contacted by email at email@example.com or by phone at 937-569-4314.