Andrew Campanella is the author of the new book The School Choice Roadmap: 7 Steps to Finding the Right School for Your Child. He is the president of National School Choice Week, and he lives in Florida.
Q: Why did you decide to write this book about choosing the right school?
A: When I talk to parents who have actively chosen schools for their kids, they almost universally tell me that they wish they had started the school search process earlier.
Parents want to be able to choose schools where their kids will learn, succeed, and be happy. Research tells us that when parents make these choices, students are more likely to, in fact, succeed!
But some parents hesitate to start the school choice process because they are worried they'll make the wrong choices. That concern isn't rooted in the fact that they lack confidence, knowledge, or expertise. It's because education can often be filled with confusing jargon and bizarre processes.
Bureaucracy and confusion shouldn't prevent parents from accessing a great education for their children, so I wanted to provide a jargon-free "roadmap" for parents, filled with practical (not philosophical) information, so that they could truly "own their power" and begin the important process of choosing their child's school or learning environment.
That roadmap turned into The School Choice Roadmap: 7 Steps to Finding the Right School for Your Child.
Q: What do you think are some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about finding the right school for a particular child?
A: There are a few.
First, you cannot look solely at a school's "grade" or "ranking" and determine whether that school will, or won't, be a good fit for your daughter or son. One school might win tons of awards and accolades, but still not be the ideal environment for your child.
Second, the myth (perpetuated by people who don't like the idea of parents picking schools) that parents don't know enough about K-12 education policy – and therefore shouldn't be empowered to make choices for their kids – is maddeningly ridiculous, but it creates a crisis of confidence for some families.
Parents know their children, and love their children, more than anyone else on this planet. Nobody has more expertise about a child's needs, wants, interests, and challenges than that child's mom or dad.
Q: How did you come up with the seven steps you write about?
A: This was the most enjoyable part of the book to write, but it was also the most challenging.
I talked to hundreds of parents, and also hundreds of school leaders, to develop and refine steps that navigate the school choice process, but are careful not to prescribe any outcomes.
The goal is to empower parents to harness the power of their own intuition and knowledge throughout every step of the process.
At the risk of sounding less than humble, some of my favorite parts of the book are the worksheets and exercises within these seven steps –– and there are a lot of them –– because they allow parents to really delve into what they need and want from schools, within the context of their child's needs.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: I hope parents will read the book and then say, "I can do this!"
I hope everyone who reads The School Choice Roadmap will also learn more about all of the different types of schools available (public, charter, magnet, private, online, and home), and be inspired by some of the parent, student, teacher, and school profiles.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I work as the president of National School Choice Week, which is an independent public awareness effort designed to let parents know about the choices they have for their children's education.
Right now, our team is working around the clock to help schools and organizations plan and promote more than 50,000 events and activities this January.
As for writing, my notebooks are filled with ideas, but nothing has taken shape! But it will!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Thank you for the opportunity to talk with me about The School Choice Roadmap. I'm excited about this book because there's nothing else like it for parents, and I hope your readers will consider it. Finally, happy new year!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb