Virtual events, drive-in movie and drive-thru events lined up for #SchoolChoiceWeek

The cars have changed, and technology has improved over the years, but MP Outdoor Cinema in Little Rock brings back memories of pink Cadillacs, poodle skirts and “Singing in the Rain.”

It’s also the perfect place to celebrate National School Choice Week during a pandemic. The Reform Alliance is hosting a free showing of the movie “Miss Virginia” at the MP Outdoor Cinema at 6700 Allied Way in Little Rock at 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30.

The Reform Alliance is hosting a showing of "Miss Virginia" at MP Outdoor Cinema, shown in this image. The drive-in setting with socially distanced cars creates a safe environment for people to watch the movie together. “Miss Virginia” is based on the true story of a single mother who challenges the system in an effort to ensure her son gets a good education.

“It’s the perfect way to conclude National School Choice Week,” said Valerie Pruitt, community engagement advocate at The Reform Alliance. “We’re still practicing safe social distancing protocols, but we get to get out, enjoy a movie and learn more about educational opportunities in Arkansas.”

National School Choice Week kicks off Jan. 25 with a dance challenge to the song “Start Your Day Right Here” by Analog and Steve Celi. The Reform Alliance will share videos of the choreography and invites the public to share videos of themselves performing the dance to compete for social media recognition and a TRA Swag Bag. Anyone can enter by posting the video and tagging @arreformalliance on TikTok or The Reform Alliance on Facebook by Sunday, Jan. 31. The winners will be announced Wednesday, Feb. 3.

In partnership with the Arkansas State Teachers Association, The Reform Alliance will also be engaging students in the celebration with an essay competition during National School Choice Week, and winners will be announced on Facebook.

The festivities continue at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, with a Netflix watch party of “Miss Virginia” so that viewers from anywhere in the state  (or beyond) can chat and share thoughts about the film in a virtual environment. In order to participate, individuals must have a Netflix account.

Another virtual event – a town hall discussion – will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27. Subject matter experts will lead a discussion about the different education options available to students in Arkansas: public schools (including charter and magnet schools), private schools, microschools, homeschools and virtual schools. Attendees can join the discussion via Zoom, and it will be available to watch on The Reform Alliance’s Facebook page as well.

“At its core, National School Choice Week is about letting families know what educational options are available, so we are really looking forward to the town hall discussion,” said Emmy Henley, managing director at The Reform Alliance. “Our panelists can help families identify the possibilities with each option.”

 

On Friday, Jan. 29,  everyone is invited to wear yellow to celebrate National School Choice Week and share photos on social media with #SchoolChoiceWeek and #SchoolChoiceforAR.

These events and activities in Arkansas are just a few of the available activities going on nationwide.

“For everyone in our country, School Choice Week is a chance to have a conversation about why every student deserves a great education,” Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, said in a video explaining the event. “There’s something for everyone during School Choice Week, and that’s why there are tens of thousands of activities and events.”


Nonprofit applauds efforts to help low-income families find learning solutions during pandemic

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Dec. 29, 2020) – The Reform Alliance, a nonprofit focused on improving education in Arkansas, announced its support for the executive order authorizing the use of the federal grant money to boost education efforts during the pandemic.

On Monday, Dec. 28, President Donald Trump signed the executive order giving states the option to use Community Service Block Grant funding to provide emergency learning scholarships for students. The scholarships would cover the costs for low-income students without access to in-person learning through traditional means to use alternative learning options, like attending in-person classes at a private or religious school, joining a learning pod, homeschooling or using private tutoring or education services.

The executive order is a positive step toward securing equal access to learning at a time when low-income students are at risk for falling further behind, according to Emmy Henley, managing director for The Reform Alliance.

“It’s important for students to have access to a learning environment where they can thrive, and virtual learning does not suit everyone, ” Henley said. “The emergency learning scholarships could help Arkansas students find the instruction method that fits them best so that they can continue learning even during the pandemic.”

Click here to read the executive order. 

The Reform Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring every K-12 student in Arkansas has equal access to a world-class education. The Reform Alliance is proud to manage the Succeed Scholarship at no cost to the State of Arkansas. Even small expenses like the cost of mailing checks to schools are paid for by a private foundation grant. Free educational resources and more information about The Reform Alliance are available at thereformalliance.org.

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Microschool launch changes lives

While most students enjoyed a movie break during the Christmas party, one student at Lighthouse Homeschooling Cooperative chose to return to her computer to do extra math problems. Lighthouse had recently implemented the Prenda microschool learning model, so this student knew she was in charge of her education … and she wasn’t going to waste a minute.

A child choosing extra classwork over a movie may seem pretty unusual in itself, but what made the moment even more extraordinary was that only a couple weeks before, this same student had been resistant to schoolwork. She had been in a self-contained classroom for behavioral issues for years in a public school. By the time she arrived at Lighthouse, she had all but given up on education, and even her first few weeks at Lighthouse were pretty rocky.

The situation changed when Lighthouse’s learning guides, Amanda and Jeremy Escue, started using the Prenda learning model and educational tools.

“We gave her the reigns, and now she is taking off,” Amanda Escue said. “Now, she is seeking more learning; she wants to do more.”

The Escues lead one of the Prenda microschools being launched in Arkansas through efforts of The Reform Alliance. A microschool is an alternative method of learning where small groups study with a trained learning guide, usually at the guide’s home, a church or other similar environment.

Prenda, the organization that developed the microschool model, emphasizes creating a flexible learning environment where students are empowered to make decisions about their education.

“It’s really amazing to see how a child begins to thrive when you give him or her an educational environment that fits their needs,” said Emmy Henley, managing director of The Reform Alliance. “The model, whether it be public school, private school, microschool or other option, needs to fit the kid, rather than trying to fit the kid to the model.”

The Reform Alliance has provided scholarships through a privately funded grant to establish 10 microschools in the state. The scholarships were awarded to low-income students who qualified for free or reduced lunches.

About 30 people attended Arkansas Prendacon on Dec. 2.

On Dec. 2, the organization brought together about 30 learning guides, parents and others interested in learning more about microschools at Arkansas Prendacon, an all-day event designed to help them make personal connections with representatives from Prenda.

Some microschools, like Lighthouse, have already launched, and others will start in January. Henley said they have already been receiving feedback from the families that have started using Prenda.

“Families are already seeing improvement,” Henley said. “Each child has an individualized learning path, and we are already seeing kids become more engaged.”

This was the case with the student at Lighthouse, whose name is being withheld for privacy purposes. Lighthouse has been operating as a cooperative homeschooling option for children with autism for about four years. Amanda Escue said they have felt alone in their efforts, so they were really excited when they got connected with Prenda and with other like-minded families at Prendacon.

“It was very encouraging to see so many people across the state that have a burden for educational options for children in Arkansas and to see a unified movement growing here,” she said.

The Escues learned a lot from Prenda’s training, but they are also benefiting from the educational tools, like Dreambox, Lexia and Treasure Hunt.

“Prenda really makes it possible for someone to jump right in,” Amanda Escue said. “We have struggled to come up with solutions on our own over the years, but Prenda has already laid the groundwork. The technology has really helped with classroom logistics.”

After attending Prendacon, the Escues started blending in Prenda’s learning model and technology on Dec. 7, and they have already been seeing heartening results.

“We have been watching lives being changed,” Amanda Escue said.


2020 Graduations and Senior Resources

 

2020 Graduations and Senior Resources


Come together

Come together

Covid-19 affects education by Brenttia O. Clayton

Special to the Democrat-Gazette 

Brenttia O. Clayton is a fourth-grade ELA Teacher, 2020 Teacher of the Year, and founder of Teachable Moments.

May 21, 2020

“We Are the World” is a 1985 classic written by the late Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. This song speaks of uniting the world when we need it most. Fast-forward 35 years later and those words seem more fitting for our current season.

The covid-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the world and resulted in Arkansas schools being closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic school year. The closing has shaken not only the parents as they try to navigate resources for unexpected homeschooling, but also teachers and school administrators.

This pandemic has left parents and educators wondering what the possible effects of long school closures on children’s short-term learning and long-term success might be, especially for children who lack sufficient resources.

There is no surprise that one size does not fit all when it comes to education. Unfortunately, in this case, the achievement gap has been stretched even more due to a number of disparities, one being socioeconomic status. Children with two college-educated parents may get a lot more help and enrichment than those who don’t, especially if their parents are financially stable and have access to technology on top of flexible work schedules….

Read more….

https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2020/may/21/come-together-20200521/


May 15 Newsletter

Read the latest news and updates from The Reform Alliance


Want Kids to Succeed

Want kids to succeed

April 27, 2020

As a parent, I will do anything I can to help my child succeed and excel. If that means sacrificing financially, our family has and is willing to do this. However, no family should have to struggle to make sure their child gets the best education.

My son Spencer struggles with anxiety, which has a major impact on his learning abilities and his social comfort in certain settings. Traditional schools are great, but traditional simply does not work for Spencer. It is important for children, and their parents, to have options when it comes to where and how they receive an education. Just like all of our children have different personalities and talents, they learn differently too.

I am confident that a new learning environment for Spencer, one that takes his anxiety-driven behavior issues into consideration, would be a game changer. I believe in his abilities and his desire to learn, but without the right environment, we are grappling with issues out of his control. Spencer's success in education will not only provide him a better future, but it will also give him the confidence he needs to make a positive impact on society. Isn't that what we all want for our children? A program like the Succeed Scholarship would not only change the trajectory of Spencer and other children's lives, but it would also impact families in a way that would be felt for generations.

STACEY STANLEY

https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2020/apr/27/letters-20200427/  


Opportunity to Thrive

Opportunity to Thrive

April 25, 2020

Perhaps you have heard the term school choice, but many may not understand what it really means and what an impact it can have on a family. To me, it means my daughter, who has a speech disability, can go to a school that meets her specific needs.

My daughter Taylor has a disability called speech apraxia, a motor speech disorder that causes her to have problems saying sounds, syllables and words. Having a child with a disability is a unique challenge, but it can be even more of a challenge when it comes to finding a school that will best fit their learning needs. Thanks to our ability to choose the right place for Taylor, she is able to attend a school that offers one-on-one teaching and the therapy she needs to succeed. Before she had this opportunity, Taylor struggled with reading, but now reads to me, which is music to this momma’s ears! More than that, I have seen her self-confidence rise tremendously because she has been given an opportunity for success, not set up for failure and frustration.

This incredible opportunity for Taylor and our family is due to the Succeed Scholarship Program. Before receiving the scholarship, we had to either borrow money or choose between paying a bill or paying tuition. The Succeed Scholarship allows us an opportunity to place our daughter in a learning environment where she has teachers who understand her condition and give her what she needs.

This is simple. Parents and guardians are the best voices for their children. If we don’t stand up for our children and get them the help they need, who will? We cannot risk allowing them to fall behind in a school that is not right for them. Every child has different needs and every child deserves an educational opportunity to best meet those needs.

BRANDY BILLINGSLEY

Benton

https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2020/apr/25/letters-20200425/