At a time when district public schools are pushing parents away and even working at odds and in secrecy, a charter school in Dallas, Texas, is operating a school model that intently prioritizes parental involvement.
UME Preparatory Academy recognizes parents as their children’s first and best teachers. The school aims to provide parents with the “time and training so that they will have enhanced opportunities to strengthen their families as they exercise greater influence over the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional growth of their children.”
The K-12 school is designed based on the University Method of Education (UME), which has historically been only seen in the private school arena. The UME approach, also called College Simulated Learning for K-12, or by the trademarked name University Model, views parents as valuable and essential contributors to their children’s learning. It understands that parental involvement plays a significant role in student academic achievement.
UME Preparatory Academy provides families with an alternative school option within public education. The model schedules classes similarly to universities, where students take certain classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and other classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All classes have at-school and at-home learning components.
Compared to other K-12 university-style education models, UME Preparatory Academy students come to school five days a week but for reduced hours compared to the typical school day. This fulfills the seat-time requirement in Texas while also providing families with increased at-home learning time of the material provided by the school.
This school model — also known as College-Simulated Learning or most often referred to by the trademark name of University Model — gives parents an avenue to be informed and involved in the education process of their children with the support of professional educators preparing the learning content and delivering the majority of the academic instruction. With parents welcomed as active participants, there is curriculum transparency and enhanced accountability of the school to provide quality learning.
This is contrasted by the frequent approach employed by district public schools to keep parents out of the process. Furthermore, it is communicated by teachers unions unabashedly. As one example, members of the National Education Association held signs at their annual assembly that read: “Keep your nose out of my classroom.”
It is not surprising that the demand for this tuition-free school model that values parental involvement and grants families more time together is surging.
According to an EdChoice poll, currently, 40% of parents, if given the opportunity, desire their children to attend school less than five days a week. This does not include the 10% of parents who prefer exclusively homeschooling their children. Yet, currently, the supply of these models is extremely limited.
As witnessed at UME Preparatory Academy, parents are willing to travel for their children to attend the school. Students from 30 surrounding public districts are eligible to attend as space allows. However, due to the demand, hundreds of students are waitlisted each year.
Education entrepreneurs are needed to create more schools of this model in the private school sector. Additionally, state-level legislation should be passed, allowing seat-time flexibility for these models to occur within public charter schools and public district schools.
It is past due time for district public schools to welcome parents into their children’s education process as active participants. No one knows and loves their children more than their parents. And, it’s parents who will be there long after the K-12 school years have passed.
More education avenues that foster the opportunity for parents to play an active — though not necessarily sole — role in their children’s education are needed. Parents matter, and their contribution is irreplicable.