Our urban and suburban school districts are under tremendous pressure to be all things for all students. Special learning needs and unique learning styles complicate the process of providing each student with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
I have served in conventional schools and public charter schools in the Milwaukee area. I’ve found that every school has its strengths as well as its needs to improve.
I am currently a speech therapist in two Milwaukee public charter schools, the Downtown Montessori Academy and Inland Seas High School. Yes, charter schools are actually public schools. Yes, many public charter schools provide special education services for frequently occurring disabilities.
Teaching at a charter school allows me to think outside the box as I serve my students. Public charter schools can offer teachers greater autonomy to be innovative in the classroom. For example, if a school’s reading program is not serving the needs of a classroom, charter schools have the autonomy to make changes as needs are identified. I think the ability to initiate necessary changes is where the “can-do” attitude of fellow teachers in charter schools comes from.
Many of Milwaukee’s charter schools are based on cutting-edge curriculums that serve a variety of learning styles. One option is referred to as “project based,” where students design and carry out a learning project of their particular interest. Another option is the student-led, teacher-guided Montessori environment. Direct instruction is a teacher-led style of learning that uses the repetition of very small, specifically targeted learning goals.