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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 23, 2003

School choice more than a numbers game

The advent of the federal No Child Left Behind education law has produced an avalanche of new statistical information on the status and performance of our public schools.

You can look it up yourself at http://arch.k12.hi.us. But as Education Writer Jennifer Hiller reported in a column this week, this information — as useful as it is — is hardly the full story about your neighborhood school and whether it is right for you.

What's really needed to get to know the school is to make contact with its teachers, administrators, parents and students. Hiller suggests that the only way to truly learn whether a particular school is right for your child is to experience it directly.

Which makes a point about the age-old debate in Hawai'i over public schools and private schools. Based on the numbers, a significantly large percentage of our families choose to opt out of the public school system altogether, placing their children in private schools.

That's a legitimate choice, of course, and one that might make perfect sense for some families. But it should be a choice made on information and solid understanding rather than on assumptions.

And it is a choice that can be affected by the degree of involvement individual families choose to have in the school their child attends.

In essence, there are two paths to choose when you look at the statistics and decide whether your neighborhood school is right for you and your family.

You can decide it is not everything you want and take your child elsewhere, to private school. Or you can choose to make that school what you want, through personal involvement, financial support and political pressure on those who make decisions about our public schools.

If personal involvement and interaction is the only way to truly learn whether a school is right for your child, it is also the only way to truly ensure your neighborhood school will succeed.

This work is far too important to be left to someone else.