Pen Pal Across The Pond

For Kimberly Massoud, a life-changing friendship began at age 12 with a book of addresses and optimism.

Interested in finding a pen pal, Massoud wrote a letter to every national embassy located in New York City to inquire about a pen pal program through which she could connect with someone in a different part of the world. The only response came from the Japanese Embassy and the result was a collection of letters.

“I started getting letters from all these people in Japan and that just wasn’t what I was looking for,” said Massoud. “I was just disappointed and then I found a book that was my dad’s and it was just full of street addresses all over the world. I just knew that if I wrote enough letters, I was going to receive a response.”

One of Massoud’s letters was delivered to a Lutheran church in the United Kingdom, about 30 miles outside of London in Essex. With not many young people in the churches’ congregation, the letter was given to 11-year-old Stephen Hamp.

“I remember one Sunday, the pastor came to me and gave me this envelope and folded up piece of paper,” said Hamp. “I was the only youngster in the church, so I’m not even sure if there was anyone else to give it to. I was fascinated, intrigued and excited, and all those things you would be. So, I replied and thought about it for a week or two and then a week or two later a letter arrived. It just went from there.”

While means of communication have changed in the 35 years since the first letter, Hamp spoke to everything that comes with a hand-written letter from a friend.

“It’s really hard to explain and we have never really been able to explain it, but there is just something about having an envelope come through the mail slot of your door and land on your doormat,” said Hamp. “Because we had to wait for the letter to be mailed and everything, it just made it unique because there wasn’t that instant gratification, but it was still exciting.”

While the hand-written & mailed letter may be a way of the past, Hamp spoke to what it did for his growth.

It really impacted the way I write and the way I communicate,” Hamp said. “Not many school kids have the opportunity to write at the depth and level that we were writing at. It has had such a positive impact on my life in so many ways and I even notice now that the way I speak was impacted by writing letters.”

Since first connecting over 30 years ago, Massoud and Hamp have each visited the other about every eight years, with the most recent visit being Hamp coming to central Indiana.

Massoud saw the visit as a great opportunity for her students to expand their world view.

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Hamp spent the school day at the Noblesville campus of Options Schools and was able to help Options students learn more about life in the United Kingdom.

“Stephen read Shakespeare to our eighth and ninth grade students,” said Massoud. “He works near Buckingham Palace so we did a digital tour of the area to show the students what that part of London is like. We also talked about some different terms in America and the United Kingdom, like ‘trash can’ and ‘rubbish bin.'”

“The students were asking me about my every day life and they were just really engaged in unique aspects of how things are different for us in the UK.,” Hamp said.

But what would a true cultural experience without tea?

During Massoud’s advising period, students were treated to tea and traditional foods like Marmite and egg salad sandwiches.

“It has been a really cool experience,” said one of Massoud’s students. “We already want him to come back.”

A life-long friendship and a cultural experience, all from the determination of Massoud to find a pen pal.

During Tea Time, students enjoyed tea, Marmite, egg salad sandwiches & more

Students of the Month – Oct. 2019

In celebration of our October Students of the Month, get to know the four students that were selected! Each student was selected by their program’s Principal and teachers.

 

Riley Tynan
(Options-Carmel)

Grade: 11th 

When did you enroll at Options?
In August of 2018. I actually found out about it by accident and liked that it wasn’t a big & stressful environment.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I am really interested in reptiles and have recently become more interested in cosmetology, with makeup and acrylic nails. I also taught myself how to play the ukulele, guitar and piano. I currently have two reptiles, one ball python and one leopard gecko.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
There are a lot of things that I like. The environment is small and personable, which has encouraged me to do more work. The structure creates trust and mutual respect between the student and the teacher. It is always consistent that every teacher is nice.

What is your favorite subject in school?
Last year it was biology, but this year would be history. Having Steve as a teacher makes the subject great because he knows when it is time to be serious and when we can enjoy it.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
I’m definitely better at math and I’ve become more social. I’m trying harder in school now and I’m a lot more comfortable with talking to people. At this school, students are open about their flaws and are easy to talk to and be around.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
The teachers are very understanding, and they will work with us if something happens. They’re always willing to help if I need it and they’re just supportive in every way.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I’m still deciding, but I know I want to graduate from college and become the first person in my family to do that because it will prove it is possible. I am interested in things like herpetology, ornithology, biology and cosmetology.

 

Chloe Keeling
(Options-Distance Education)

Grade: 10th
Hometown: North Salem, Indiana 

When did you enroll at Options?
January 2019

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I love to workout at the gym with my brothers or do anything that involves physical activity. I also find myself very intrigued in the fashion world.

What is your favorite thing about the Options Distance Education Program?
My favorite thing about the Options Distance Education Program is the flexibility it gives you. You can work on lessons anytime of the day or night, as well as work at your own pace, which I think is amazing.

What is your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject would have to be Math. I have always understood math very well, and I think it is cool how the whole world uses it in the same ways. 

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
Academically, I have improved. I have been able to not only get my work done, but I actually understand it and can apply it to the real-world. Outside of school, I have improved my relationships with my family, and have been able to experience more real-world situations with the flexibility of my schedule.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
The teachers at Options are great! Whenever I need help in a certain subject, all I have to do is message the teacher and I will get a quick response. We discuss why I’m having a hard time over video chat or email. The teachers really take their time in making sure the problem is resolved and I fully understand all of my work.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
Nothing is set in stone regarding my plans after a graduate. However, I’d like to attend college and explore different majors, and I’d also like to travel as much as possible in the future.

 

Bella Ott
(Options-Noblesville Middle School)

Grade: 8th

When did you enroll at Options?
At the start of September of this year.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I have played the clarinet for three years and I like Henna art, but it is the only thing I am good at drawing. I also like to play basketball.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I like it a lot. I have become connected to other students and have developed some real friendships. I like that the teachers are genuine, they put in effort and truly care about us and our education.

What is your favorite subject in school?
Right now, it is Family & Consumer Science and Health. I like having Mike as a teacher and the class is just interesting because a lot of it is new to me.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
I am just a lot happier and not as stressed about things because I am better about handling things, so I don’t have to always worry about school.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
I feel like I have such a closer connection with my teachers. Calling them by their first name was weird at first, but it really makes a difference in making them more approachable.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I want to graduate from high school during my junior year. I want to attend Purdue and get a degree in Zoology. I want to become an animal rehabilitator for plains animals and I want to make an impact. I don’t want my life to be wasted and I really just want to do something meaningful with it. I am really passionate about saving animals.

 

Leah Beach
(Options-Noblesville High School)

Grade: 12th

When did you enroll at Options?
The first day of the January 2019 semester.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I like to listen to different types of podcasts, but mainly mystery, true crime and paranormal. I also know how to knit, but I don’t really do it. Right now, I’m also busy volunteering at a senior citizen living community as part of my service project for graduation.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I’ve gone to five different schools and this is my favorite. I like that it is small and you can get to know people better. You can also create more personal relationships with the teachers. I also like that it is all built around each student and everyone is supportive.

What is your favorite subject in school?
History because of how much passion and gusto Josh has for the material. I was never really a big fan of history, but I’ve liked exploring world history over time.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
Being here has been better for my spirit. My anxiety isn’t as bad, and I don’t get worried about unnecessary things anymore.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
They care and have more understanding, plus they really just want to be helpful. You get to know the teachers because the classes are small. They will make accommodations for students that need it and they are willing to work with you.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I have so many interests and I am working on narrowing it down. Right now, there are five different things I am interested in.

 

Want to learn more about Options Schools? Visit “The Options Experience” Blog to see more news about Options students & staff!

Next Up: November

I know people say this all the time, but it is just wild how the first three months of the school year have flown by, and the holiday season will be here in a matter of weeks! With Fall Break now in the past, we are looking forward to seeing everyone finish the semester and 2019 calendar year on a high note. Our annual Halloween Party will take place Thursday afternoon, so the students and staff are all excited to get in the spirit.

Yesterday, our Senior Institue students that have already committed 15 hours of community service towards their organization took a trip to Muncie for a visit to the Planetarium at Ball State University.

Please take note of some important upcoming dates:

  • October 31: Halloween (festivities from 1 PM-3 PM)
  • November 5: Picture retakes
  • November 6: Full E-Learning Day 
  • November 27-29: Thanksgiving Break

We still have seats available at Options-Noblesville for anyone who could benefit from smaller class sizes and a more individualized approach. Anyone interested in learning more about Options or scheduling a tour can reach me via email at abarr@optionsined.org.

Enjoy your week & make it great!

– Adam –

Hello All & Hello Fall!

Hello Fall!

I can’t believe how quickly this semester is moving along. Yesterday made for a great start to the week following Fall Break & today, a group of English students took a field trip to Butler University to see a play where the works of Edgar Allen Poe were brought to life. In my family, we are big Disney fans, so we spent time at Walt Disney World last week during our Fall Break & of course stopped by to see Mickey Mouse, as you can see in our photo.

Please continue to support your student by checking their grades on PowerSchool every Monday after 6:00 PM.  We have just under half of the semester left. Below you will find a list of important dates.

  • 10/30: PSAT at 8:30 AM
  • 10/31: Halloween Party – more info will be sent out
  • 11/5: Hearing Screenings for all 10th graders and any student new to Options this year
  • 11/6: Full E-Learning Day
  • 11/13: Senior Parent Night at 6:00 PM
  • 11/14: Picture Retakes at 10:00 AM
  • 11/26: Thanksgiving Feast – more info will be sent out
  • 11/27-11/29: Thanksgiving Break

Know of someone who wants to explore Options? We still have open seats available for enrollment! Please feel free to share this information with your family and friends.

Have a great end of October!

— Dunagan

 

Charter Schools by the Numbers

The following information was provided by the Indiana Charter School Network

For the fourth year in a row, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) ranked Indiana 1st in the nation for the strongest state charter school law.

The Center for Education Reform rated Indiana as an “A” for our charter school law in their 17th Edition of its National Charter School Law Rankings and Scorecard. Arizona and the District of Columbia were the only others to receive an A rating.

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) ranked Indiana first in the country for our laws on authorizer accountability.

State law requires that every charter agreement must include a requirement that the charter school cannot remain an F rated school for 4 consecutive years. If an authorizer fails to close a school after 4 consecutive F ratings, the State Board of Education may intervene and close the school as well as penalize the authorizer.

15 out of 16 independent studies found that students attending charter schools do better academically than their traditional school peers.

 

About Public Charter Schools
Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low-income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.

About the Indiana Charter School Network
The Indiana Charter School Network serves as Indiana’s charter school association. A great majority of Hoosier charter schools are dues-paying members. ICSN works closely with the IQE policy team in the development of policy positions to be shared with policymakers, to ensure our charter school members are represented well at the state level. ICSN provides member schools with communications on policy issues, grant opportunities, charter-related research, events of interest, and other relevant information. ICSN provides professional development opportunities for charter school staff and connects member schools to vendor partners offering our schools exceptional service or discounts.

 

Learn About Charter Schools

Courtesy of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, we have constructed this page to provide general information on public charter schools. This page contains answers the question “What Is A Charter School?” and also provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions about charter schools.

Reimagining Education: One school, one classroom, one student at a time

Charter schools are independently-operated public schools that have the freedom to design classrooms that meet their students’ needs. All charter schools operate under a contract with a charter school authorizer – usually a nonprofit organization, government agency, or university – that holds them accountable to the high standards outlined in their “charter.” It is common to see charter schools led by former teachers who wanted to take the lessons they learned in the classroom and apply those lessons to an entire school.

Each of the more than 7,000 charter schools is unique – both inside and out. Some focus on college prep, some follow a STEM curriculum, and others integrate the arts into each subject. Most charter schools are located in cities, but there are charter schools in suburban and rural areas as well. Some charter schools require uniforms, others have longer school days, and some teach their entire curriculum in two languages. The possibilities are endless, but charter schools aim to provide a range of options so that parents can choose the public school that best fits their child.

The reasons that parents choose charter schools for their children are just as unique as the students themselves. They choose charter schools because of the strong, dedicated teachers, because the school’s focus matches their child’s needs, or simply because their child was struggling in their assigned public school and needed to try something new. Charter schools provide families with options in public education, allowing parents to take a more active role in their child’s education.

How do charter schools work?

Charter schools are public schools operating under an independent contract or “charter” with an authorizing agency—typically a non-profit organization, government agency or university.  The charter provides the school with operational autonomy to pursue specific educational objectives regarding curriculum, staff, and budget. It also holds them accountable to the same (often higher) standards of their district public school peers.

Are charter schools public schools?

Yes, charter schools are independently-operated, public schools. Charter schools provide a high-quality education option to public school students, upholding high standards that meet and often exceed the district and state metrics.

How do I enroll my child in a charter school?

Most charter schools have an enrollment period when parents can submit applications for the school. If there are more applications submitted than seats available, they will hold a randomized blind lottery. To learn more about applying to a charter school in your state, visit your state’s charter support organization website.

Do charter schools have attendance boundaries?

Charter schools do not have traditional school boundaries like district schools, which allows many charter schools to attract a diverse student body. Charter schools are restricted by state limits and some have city limits as well. Visit your state’s charter support organization website for more information about charter schools in your area.

Are charter schools nonprofit?

Yes, the overwhelming majority of charter schools are nonprofit organizations. Some states allow for-profit organizations to manage charter schools, but that accounts for less than 15% of charter schools across the country. Regardless, all charter schools are free to attend.

How can I start a charter school?

Charter schools can be started by any interested party, including parents, community members, and teachers.  It is common to see charter schools led by former teachers who wanted to take the lessons they learned in the classroom and scale to an entire school community. It is helpful to first identify a unique need in the community that the charter school would serve and connect with a local charter school authorizer. You can learn more about the charter school authorizers in your state on the National Association of Charter School Authorizers website.

How can I teach at a charter school?

A great place to start your search is on our Charter School Job Board! You can also learn more by from your state’s charter organization.

Do charter schools have admission requirements?

No, charter schools do not have admission requirements or entrance exams. Though many charter schools are in high demand and when that demand exceeds the spaces available in the school, a charter school may hold a randomized, blind lottery to determine which students are admitted or may preference students by need or location.

What are some questions to ask when I’m choosing a charter school?

As a parent, make sure you are familiar with the individual objectives and rules affiliated with the specific charter school that you are considering before you enroll your child. The reasons that parents choose charter schools for their children are just as unique as the students themselves. They choose their child’s school for a variety of reasons including strong, dedicated teachers, the school’s focus matches their child’s needs, or simply because their child was struggling in their zoned-public school and needed to try something new. Charter schools provide families with options in public education, allowing parents to take a more active role in their child’s education.

What is a charter school authorizer?

Authorizers are the institutions that decide who can start a new charter school, set expectations and oversee school performance, and decide which schools should continue to serve students or not. Depending on state law, authorizers can be school districts, education agencies, independent boards, universities, mayors and municipalities, and not-for-profits.

Do charter schools charge tuition?

No, charter schools are tuition-free, public schools.

What makes charter schools different than other schools?

Each of the more than 7,000 charter schools is unique – both inside and out. Some may focus on college prep, some follow a Montessori curriculum, and others integrate the arts into each subject. Most charter schools are located in urban areas, but there are charter schools in suburban and rural areas as well. Some charter schools require uniforms, others have longer school days, and some teach their entire curriculum in two languages. The possibilities are endless, but charter schools aim to provide a range of options so that parents can choose the school that best fits their child.

Who supports charter schools?

Charter schools enjoy widespread support from parents, teachers, community leaders, and both Republican and Democrat elected officials across the country. Learn more about some of our strongest supporters here.

 

 

About Options Schools
Serving students in grades 6-12, Options Schools are free, public charter schools with brick and mortar campuses in Carmel and Noblesville & another campus coming to Westfield. Options also offers a Distance Education program that serves students throughout Indiana. Providing students with an inclusive environment and a student-to-teacher ratio of 15-to-1. With a high-quality, individualized approach, Options was founded in 2002.

 

The state of school choice in the U.S.

Via redefinED (By Patrick R. Gibbons – September 25, 2019)

Charter schools and home schooling are experiencing major growth. Meanwhile, there were no significant differences between students in charter schools and traditional public schools in average reading and mathematics scores on national tests in 2017.

Those are two of the key findings in the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDOE) latest report, “School Choice in the United States,” which updates the national changing landscape for school choice with changes in enrollment data, academic performance updates, and parental satisfaction surveys. Nationally, charter public schools and district schools increased enrollment while private schools declined.

Overall, there were around 57.8 million K-12 students in the United States, up from 53.8 million in 1999. Based on figures from the USDOE, the market share of district schools fell from 87 percent of all students in 1999 to 81.8 percent of students by 2016.

From 1999 to 2016 the share of students attending their assigned neighborhood public schools dropped from 74 percent to 69 percent. Public school choice option, including charter schools, magnet schools and open enrollment programs, grew from 14 percent of the student body in 1999 to 19 percent. Charter schools alone grew a staggering 571 percent from 2000 to 2016, enrolling over 3 million students by 2016.

Private school options fell from 10 percent to 9 percent, while home education grew from 2 percent to 3 percent by 2016.

Unlike most of the nation, however, Florida has seen private school enrollment bounce back. In 2000, 348,000 students enrolled in nonpublic schools, comprising 12.5 percent of the total PK-12 student body. Thanks to the help of several private school programs, including the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, private schools in the Sunshine State continue to grow. In 2018-19, the latest data available, 380,000 students enrolled in nonpublic schools, though the market share has declined to 11.8 percent of Florida’s total PK-12 student population.

Catholic schools remain the top choice among private school parents, enrolling more than 2 million students in 2016, more than double any other denomination.

District schools enrolled 94 percent of all public school students, with charters enrolling the other 6 percent. District schools were more likely to enroll white students, and less likely to enroll black or Hispanic students, than charters. According to the USDOE, 57 percent of public schools were 50 percent or more white, while just 33 percent of charters were. Charters were more likely to be 50 percent or higher black or Hispanic, however.

Enrollment in charter options varies greatly among states, though one important pattern emerges just in time for the Democratic presidential primaries: Important swing states Florida, Arizona and Michigan have large charter school populations.

Meanwhile, the USDOE reports “no measurable difference” between the average district students and charter school students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams in reading in math in 2017.

Charter school students, including black, Hispanic and free and reduced-price lunch students, saw higher raw NAEP scores in fourth-grade reading than in traditional public schools, and were no different on eighth-grade reading. White, black and Hispanic students attending charters also saw higher raw scores on eighth-grade math, and were no different on fourth-grade math.

According to the report, 1.7 million students attended a home school setting in 2016. Home school students were more likely to live in a rural setting or small town than be urban or suburban. Homeschooling was also more common in the South and West than in the Northeast.

Home school parents had various reasons for choosing the option, according to the USDOE. About 34 percent of home education parents chose home schooling over public schools due to concerns about a school’s environment such as safety, drugs or negative peer pressure. Seventeen percent were dissatisfied with instruction, and 16 percent wanted to provide religious instruction.

Choice also played a significant role in parental satisfaction. Sixty percent of parents choosing a public school option were satisfied with the school, compared to 54 percent of parents with students at assigned public schools. Seventy-seven percent of parents enrolling children in private schools reported being satisfied with the school. A similar pattern emerges regarding satisfaction for academic standards, school discipline and regarding interaction between staff and parents.