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Choice: Partnering with parents to find the best learning environment for students

CASTLE ROCK – The Douglas County School District believes that we will provide our students with the highest probability of success by providing students, parents and our employees with choices and communicating the unique qualities of our many school communities.

“It is not a one size fits all,” explained DCSD Director of Student and Parent Choice Tom McMillen. “Choice is a way to enable and empower parents to have the best educational opportunity for their individual child.”

“[Parents] are the best judges for what is good for their kids. If they are involved in their child’s education, it gives us a much better chance at making the student successful,” added DCSD Development and Innovation Officer Pat McGraw.

Read the Douglas County School District Strategic Plan
Choice in the Douglas County School District
Stories About Choice

Superintendent Dr. Liz Fagen says the District embraces Choice for all parents, because we recognize each child learns differently.

“I have two children and they learn differently,” explained Fagen.

Fagen believes that parent involvement is critically important in finding a learning environment that will meet each student’s needs and nurture them in reaching their highest potential.

“We are committed to making sure that all of our students are college, career and citizenship ready, and we want to partner with every parent in our school district to make that happen,” Fagen said. “I encourage you to get involved. Get to know the schools available to you and your students, and choose the very best match. I can promise you that it makes a big difference in the career of a student.”

To empower parents, DCSD has worked to provide parents with more information about the options. DCSD has also encouraged schools to communicate what makes them unique, as well as what parents and students can expect.

“Choice is intended to provide parents with a menu of options that they can learn about, within their own neighborhoods, as they’re exploring different possibilities for the education for their students,” McMillen said.

“Choice is not a competition between two schools.  Each school is expected to offer its own type of education; in the best way they can, meet those kids needs,” explained McGraw.”

“Every school in our District is amazing,” added Fagen. “They teach the same curriculum, so no matter what school you choose; you will get the same outcomes for your children. The way that they teach that curriculum may be slightly different, whether you choose an Expeditionary Learning school, an International Baccalaureate, an Artful Learning school, a neighborhood school that embraces a Project Based Learning approach or a magnet option, your child will learn those outcomes in a unique way.”

It is important to note that the District supports the decisions of school communities. There is no mandate that schools offer an educational strand or any other program. The only expectation is that they meet the District’s high academic expectations.

“We recognize that we have wonderful, comprehensive neighborhood schools in the District and if that is what they choose to emphasize, then we say, ‘go for it. Be the best comprehensive neighborhood school you can be,’” said McGraw.

Approximately 85 percent of the children in Douglas County attend the neighborhood school to which they are geographically assigned. 

“They love the community feel of going to school with the children who live around you, the kids next door. A lot of parents feel that is important,” Fagen said.

Parents help shape their school communities. Get Involved!
In Douglas County, one way parents can influence their school community is by participating in their School Accountability Committee (SAC). It represents the school community, working with the principal to shape the school.

 “If you are part of your School Accountability Committee then you get to be part of the budgeting process and your school will start to look more like the needs and desires of your community. That is a very important part of school choice,” Fagen explained. 

The District is also organizing regional Choice Fairs, so that parents can find out more about schools in their area at the end of the month. We also are anticipating the relaunch of the District’s School Selector Tool, an online resource for parents to explore schools.

Learn more about Choice at

September 30, 2014 | By rmbarber | Category: Choice Programming

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