MAKING THE GRADE: Navigating Academic Challenges in Trying Times

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MAKING THE GRADE Navigating Academic Challenges in Trying Times
An empty highschool hallway with red lockers on the right side

For parents and caregivers striving for children to get a great education, these are challenging times. Continuously weighing the health risks of in-person learning against the balancing act of distance learning is a daunting task. Throw in the likelihood of learning loss from COVID slide and queue the pounding migraine setting in. Many families have transferred students to new campuses or sought different school models altogether to find the best fit for each child’s individual academic needs in the current COVID-19 climate. Navigating these uncharted waters of pandemic parenting and schooling calls for community support from fellow parents and education experts in the know. The education-based nonprofit San Antonio Charter Moms has answered the call with various online communities designed to offer real-time guidance, resources and advice to help families make informed decisions about their child’s education.


Thankfully, Texans are no strangers to banding together during times of crisis, whether coming to the aid of a distressed neighbor during Winter Storm Uri or offering remedies to the many academic challenges and disruptions brought on by the pandemic. There is nothing more comforting than consulting with others who have been there, done that and gone on to parent another day.


Families can find solace in the nonprofit’s online community, which allows parents to help parents. The San Antonio Charter Moms Facebook discussion group serves as a sounding board for more than 7,000 engaged members seeking support on topics such as school choice, distance learning, homeschooling, micro schooling, traditional on-campus matters, virtual schooling, tutoring resources and much more.
Charter Moms Chats includes live conversations on Facebook several times a week at 4 p.m., where Founder Inga Cotton and guests cover hot-button topics, answer viewer questions and share additional learning resources. Additionally, Charter Moms Chats recently launched in podcast form through Spotify and Apple Podcasts, making it easier than ever for multi-tasking moms and dads to tune in while struggling to juggle all the things.

San Antonio Charter Moms Podcasts Not to Miss

Fighting Cyberbullying in the Age of Distance Learning. Cyberbullying is at an all-time high due to increased screen time and heightened strain on social and emotional wellness brought on by the pandemic. According to L1ght, an organization that monitors online harassment and hate speech, there was a 70% increase in cyberbullying, a 40% increase in toxicity on online gaming platforms, and a 200% increase in traffic to hate sites within just two months of the start of the pandemic. In this podcast, Cotton speaks with Maurine Molak of David’s Legacy Foundation to offer resources for detecting and battling cyberbullying and ways to advocate for stricter laws against it.


Expert Resources Help Combat COVID Slide.

Hear expert advice from teachers, school leaders, parents and community leaders about keeping students engaged, learning and in a good mental state for growth. Covering a wide range of learning levels, this show focuses on the importance of teaching early learners to read, staying on track with math through the ages and preparing soon-to-be grads for college readiness.


Using Insights from Previous Standardized Testing Results.

In this podcast, Cotton and Dr. Nathan Balasubramanian, an expert on school improvement and accountability, offer listeners insight into using STAAR test results as a resource to improve students’ learning experience. Standardized testing can be a cause of stress, but once fears are set aside, the report cards that come with STAAR test results can provide useful information. Knowing where students stand academically is more important than ever with the school year being disrupted by the pandemic. Few parents and caregivers know how to decipher and access test result data properly. Cotton and Balasubramanian offer tips to unlock the personalized learning resources given through standardized test results.


School Leaders Dish on Area Schools.

The pandemic has forced parents to be more engaged in their children’s education than ever before, causing many families to reevaluate school choice.
Furthermore, the pandemic has caused an uncharacteristically higher number of openings in area charter and choice schools, leading to higher acceptance rates and shorter waitlist times. Exercising school choice requires an entrepreneurial spirit and an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change. Charter and choice school leaders and families embrace critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement. These families take calculated risks in the hopes that the right school fit will reap academic rewards. San Antonio Charter Moms empowers parents to make informed decisions when searching for individualized educational needs. An often-overwhelming process, the nonprofit tracks and summarizes important dates like open houses (in-person and virtual), open enrollment periods, and deadlines and lotteries within the organization’s school enrollment guides. The in-depth podcast interviews with school leaders offer an inside glimpse of each school’s unique features.


What I Wish I Knew: Insider Tips for Applying for Charter and Choice Schools.

Cotton guides parents and caregivers through the charter school application process. The podcast serves as an introduction to soothe fears and offer insider tips to increase listener’s chances for successful enrollment. Along the way, Cotton shares some of her own mistakes, so listeners can avoid making the same blunders. The overriding goal is for children to receive enrollment offers from at least one school of choice so that they can look forward to a future full of opportunities. This segment allows listeners to soak up the sage advice from those who have navigated the tricky process for themselves and helped hundreds of others do the same.

Perhaps the greatest silver lining behind pandemic parenting is gaining a clearer understanding of our children’s academic strengths and weaknesses. How we use that insight can have a direct impact on whether our children succeed or fall short. Having the right resources at our fingertips is half the battle. In addition to the recently launched podcast, San Antonio Charter Moms produces the Owl’s Education Express e-newsletter with weekly updates on recent posts on the San Antonio Charter Moms blog, a list of upcoming events and important dates, and links to education headline news. SACM developed San Antonio’s first free school finder app in 2019 called “San Antonio Charter Schools” and now includes the finder function through the nonprofit’s website for easy browsing.

 

About the author: An award-winning communications expert, Valerie Grant is a regular contributor and trusted source to many regional media outlets. As Founder and CEO of Grant House Communications, she works with a wide range of industries within San Antonio and the surrounding Hill Country.

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