I was reading about the creative ways some Michigan charter schools are marketing their schools for potential students and it made me think about how far we've come since all students were "assigned" to a particular school. School choice, and in many states simply charter schools, have redefined how families choose a public school.
Several of the successful Denver charter schools have people who take fliers door-to-door prior to their initial year of operation. After that first year, the lottery pool is typically much larger than the number of available openings and so this type of marketing is no longer necessary as "word of mouth" creates demand. But these schools continue to make home visits and have parents sign contracts to be sure they understand their role in their child's education.
Charter schools are "niche" schools that have to understand what they do well and market their school accordingly. The people in many communities throughout Colorado believe all charter schools are like the one they know in their own community, which is far from the truth. Many charter schools, even if their educational program is largely similar, are very different. For example, for years Grand Junction has had an alternative high school charter that has struggled with academic performance and staff turnover. Now this year, Caprock Academy is operating a K-8 Core Knowledge charter school in Grand Junction that is completely different. Parents are becoming more educated about charter schools as they hear about a different kind of charter school operating in their own community.
The philosophy that schools actually want to compete for a child's education is an outgrowth of the charter school movement. Rather than schools sending the message that parents have no role in their child's education, charter schools are recruiting and welcoming parental involvement--and not just to do bake sales and sell candy bars! In charter schools, parents make arrangements to finance facility costs, govern the school and work alongside a teacher in the classroom.