I have one of the best jobs in the world. All year long, I work to raise awareness of the tens of thousands of schools, organizations and individuals who make a difference in the lives of children by opening the doors of opportunity in education. Through this work, I’ve learned that when empowered to speak out, parents can be the most effective change makers for education in their communities—especially when they have positive experiences with schools they have actively chosen for their kids. After all, no policy paper, study or analysis can replicate the emotion, passion and enthusiasm of a parent who has found the right school or educational setting for her or his child. No roundtable discussion at a conference can beat the relatability of a kitchen table conversation about education. For charter parents,
National Charter Schools Week provides an opportunity to share those experiences and conversations, so that other families can discover how school choice can benefit their children’s lives.
[pullquote position="left"]Making change doesn’t have to be too complicated. For example, parents can provide encouragement to other families, by talking openly about their own school search process and explaining how they found the right education setting for their own children. Across America, people truly want to talk about, and celebrate, what’s working in education. Students and parents want to recognize the people who are creating positive change in their communities—heroes like great teachers and pioneering school leaders. They want to celebrate great schools. But for many parents, I have found that there is an invisible barrier to speaking out in a positive way. They worry that because they want to share praise—as opposed to frustration and anger—nobody will be interested in hearing their stories. This is understandable. Media outlets tend to amplify negativity and protest. One angry voice can draw a lot of attention but one positive voice is often ignored or discounted. Since 2011, National School Choice Week has been working, with relentless positivity, to crack this code. We work with parents, students, teachers at all types of education settings—traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies and homeschooling. Our findings have been simple but powerful: When people with a positive message stand together and speak out in unity, they have a much better chance of having their voices heard. This unity and positivity can be demonstrated online, through Facebook pages and organized tweetups, or at press conferences and pep rallies at schools. These efforts generate positive and uplifting news stories, and this publicity, in turn, inspires even more people to become positive change makers in their communities. According to a review of research about news consumption compiled by the Constructive Journalism Project, people who have
more exposure to positive news stories are more likely to take “positive action” and engage in “charitable behavior.” That is because positive stories encourage people to “see what is possible” in their communities and in the world. During this National Charter Schools Week, I hope that charter parents, teachers and school leaders will give all of America a chance to see what is possible when parents are empowered, children are happy and great schools are making a difference. The charter school movement has the stories—and this week is the time to tell them.
Andrew R. Campanella is president of National School Choice Week, the world’s largest annual public awareness effort focusing on K-12 education. In 2018, National School Choice Week featured more than 32,000 events, meetings and activities across the United States.