Atlanta principals focus on school culture to improve student learning

Principals in Atlanta, Georgia’s low-performing schools are leading a change in school culture they’re hoping to leverage into better academic outcomes for students.

Principals at Perkerson Elementary and Carver High school recently offered a look inside major changes underway as part of a broader effort to transform the district that also includes staffing changes and nonprofit contractors, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Carver High School principal Yusuf Muhammad explained how Purpose Built Schools Atlanta is helping school officials implement a project-based learning approach that centers on students “at the core of the learning.”

“Instead of just, ‘Here’s a textbook, and you read the textbook’ or ‘ …I’m going to lecture and tell you what to do and you have to memorize what you have to learn,’ the students will be designing projects that are aligned to, of course, the state standards but also to their lives, so it’s culturally based,” Muhammad said.

The new approach takes lessons about math, science, history and other subjects and applies it to issues in students’ high-poverty neighborhood, while also expanding class offerings and clubs students can participate in during the school day, according to the news site.

Administrators also implemented changes to make the school “feel” more inviting, such as replacing the traditional bell signaling class periods to a pleasant message: “Good afternoon kings and queens. At this time, we will start our transition to our third block.”

“I just really worked on culture, creating a culture of love … and that we have high expectations,” Muhammad told the Journal-Constitution. “I know that we couldn’t make huge academic gains right away without improving the culture.”

Tony Ford, principal at Perkerson, is also focused on transforming school culture, though with an entirely different approach. He set up a system of rewards and competitions based on the “house” system popularized by Harry Potter. Students who behave earn tokens and compete for parties with the principal. Students also receive a “paycheck” for good behavior they can use at a school store called The Perkerson Pit Stop.

“Imagine: Hanging out with the principal as an honor and not a punishment,” the AJC reports. “That’s the school he’s trying to create.”

Researchers with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture have highlighted the important role culture – which extends to students’ mental state, home life, and after school community – plays in shaping character.

“The form of character is one thing, but the substance of character always takes shape relative to the culture in which it is found,” Institute founder James Davison Hunter wrote in “The Tragedy of Moral Education.” provides resources for educators and principals working to transform school culture and instill positive character virtues in students, from conversations on key topics and training sessions to “11 Principles of Effective Character Education,” which offers tips on implementing positive change.


Oregon reaches out to students for better solutions to bullying

The Oregon Department of Education launched a task force to delve deeper into bullying, and find creative ways to reduce incidents in the state’s schools.

The Advisory Committee on Safe and Effective Schools for All Students involves students, parents, teachers, lawmakers and advocates working together to review and draft policy recommendations schools can use to improve school culture, KEZI reports.

A major component of that effort is to solicit feedback from students across the state about ideas and issues in their schools, and to present the findings to the State Board of Education, lawmakers and the governor.

Oregon Department of Education director Colt Gill told the news site students are the ones who will ultimately change the dynamic in schools to prevent bullying, and it’s important to listen to their perspective.

“The way we formalize it at the educator level when we’re always stepping in and solving these problems for them doesn’t prepare them to be able to solve these problems on their own, both in school and once they’re in the workplace, as well,” Gill said.

The Advisory Committee on Safe and Effective Schools for All Students also wants to collect data from schools to track how early identification and intervention practices can address bullying before it escalates.

Much of the work, Gill said, centers on acceptance, and teaching students to embrace diversity.

“School is the one place when we’re all together, and we need to learn to respect one another and value what each person brings to the school,” Gill said.

Grandmother Jan Savelich told KEZI she’s encouraged by the focus on acceptance.

Savelich said she believes in “teaching our kids to love one another and to be kind in spite of our differences and maybe learn to love people because of our differences too.”

Researchers with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia examined some of the root causes of bullying as part of a broader look into character education in a variety of different schools.

In “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of the findings, researchers noted that parents are skeptical about the ability of schools to address moral dilemmas, in part because educators would rather avoid hot topics.

“This failure to provide a fully developed and broadly coherent moral message was partly due to public school teachers’ reluctance to opine on controversial issues,” editors James Davison Hunter and Ryan S. Olson wrote, adding many refrain from “providing serious direction on what was right and what was wrong.”

The work in Oregon and elsewhere to better understand the perspective of parents, teachers, students and others on issues like bullying and online harassment will undoubtedly help to shape a more coherent and uniform response to the problems plaguing schools.

Another step in that direction is the state’s Safe Oregon campaign, a free tip line service for public and private K-12 schools designed to give students an anonymous way to report safety threats or possible acts of violence.

The website also offers resources for schools, students and parents working to make their communities safer.

Academics lament eroding college culture’s negative impacts on character, marriage, families

Two veteran academics are ringing the alarms about the behavior and mindset of college students in America today, pointing to a “profoundly unintellectual” environment rife with sexual promiscuity that’s undermining marriages and families.

Former Yale English professor William Deresiewicz and Vigen Guroian, professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, presented their thoughts at a recent conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, The College Fix reports.

Deresiewicz argued that many students seemingly lack passion and “aren’t trained to pay attention to the things they feel connected to.”

The former Yale professor, who also taught at Columbia University, contends many American universities have become “profoundly unintellectual” because students are more focused on the process of learning and “accumulating gold stars,” which means they “don’t have time for intellectual curiosity.”

Students, he said, “can’t think for themselves because they don’t have time.”

The result is students who have told Deresiewicz “’I hate all my activities, I hate all my classes, I hated high school, and I expect to hate my job,’” he told students. Higher education, Deresiewicz believes, now produces “a large number of mentally smart, (but) situationally confused graduates.”

“You might as well go to Wall Street and make a lot of money if you have nothing better to do,” he said.

These concerns echo those expressed recently by James Davison Hunter, executive director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture who spoke at the Baylor University’s Institute for Faith and Learning recently. Hunter warned, “In an effort to establish a neutral and inclusive moral paradigm, the moral universe is emptied of all particularities that make it binding on the conscience…. An inclusive morality tends to reduce morality to the thinnest of platitudes.”

Guroian, author of controversial Christianity Today article “Dorm Brothel,” spoke about the how what’s becoming a collegiate sexual free-for-all is eroding the moral fabric of traditional courtship and marriage, leading to rising divorce rates.

“I believe that the college experience has an impact on the marriages our children make,” he said.

In the past, college was a place where many people found their spouse, Guroian said, but it now more resembles “a parent-funded motel party.”

“Dating has taken a back seat,” he said. “Where courtship languishes, marriage weakens.”

Hunter reminds us that communities grounded in the particularities of religion have the capacity to form moral character substantive enough to deal with life’s ethical challenges.

Teachers and principals working to strengthen moral and citizenship formation in their students can find information and strategies at the UK’s The Jubilee Centre. In The Jubilee Centre’s own words, the following illustrates how the centre views it work.  “The Jubilee Centre is a pioneering interdisciplinary research centre on character, virtues and values in the interest of human flourishing.  The Centre is a leading informant on policy and practice through its extensive range of projects contributes to a renewal of character virtues in both individuals and society.”


Parents get heated during community meeting on bullying

Dozens of parents shouted down Waterford School District officials at a town hall meeting in March to discuss what they perceived of as rampant bullying in the district’s schools.

The heated three-hour meeting centered largely on students and parents relaying the horror stories of bullying to superintendent Keith Wunderlich and board members John Torres and Bob Piggott, with most alleging the district’s efforts to address serious behavior problems isn’t working, the Oakland Press reports.

Several folks in the crowd who spoke up shouted their frustrations directly at Wunderlich.

Fourteen-year-old Brooklyn Longacre told district officials the sexual harassment she’s faced at Mott High School convinced her to quit playing sports, and she now sees a counselor. Longacre said school officials haven’t taken her complaints seriously, and she’s not alone.

“I’ve seen her get bullied, and her,” Longacre said, pointing to classmates in the crowd.

“Peer mediation doesn’t work. I had to walk down the hallway with the same guy who was touching me every day … I’m really tired of it,” she said. “I’m tired of the excuses. I did go to my principal and the principal said I lied. This is real. This is happening.”

The meeting followed recent allegations of assault and sexual abuse shared widely on social media.

Kaila Partlo told the Press she posted to Facebook about her third-grade daughter’s experience with bullies and the post generated over 65,000 shares and over 100 calls from other Waterford parents with similar concerns.

Parents of a Cooley Elementary School third grader who committed suicide in January have also spoken out recently about the district’s bullying problem.

Ashley Wright, a community organizer who planned the March meeting, told the Press her now 18-year-old daughter suffered depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts during her two years in Waterford schools, but those problems seemed to evaporate when she started a new school in Illinois.

Makenzie Benning, a Pierce Middle School eighth-grader, also spoke at the meeting, relaying how she punched a student in self-defense after he repeatedly sexually assaulted her. Benning said she received a three-day suspension, while her harasser faced no punishment, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“I (was) sexually harassed last year and got in trouble for standing up for myself,” she said.

A district spokesperson told the Press Waterford schools uses several nationally recognized anti-bullying programs – including Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, The Leader in Me program and Mindfulness – but have assembled a task force of parents, school officials, social workers and anti-bullying experts to implement changes.

Parents like Kaila Partlo, however, seem skeptical the effort will make much of a difference.

Parents and students alike are now highly sensitive to the dangers of bullying. Even as national statistics show a national decrease in bullying behavior, it is imperative that all involved address the problem with the seriousness that it deserves. A problem exists at this school that is deeper than bullying. There is skepticism by parents that the administration and teachers care about addressing these moral dilemmas. Researchers at the University of Virginia found that in some cases public high school teachers are reluctant to get involved in controversial issues. They observed, “This failure to provide a fully developed and broadly coherent moral message was partly due to public school teachers’ reluctance to opine on controversial issues.” They often refrain from “providing serious direction on what was right and what was wrong.”[1]

Teachers and principals interested in strengthening moral formation in their students can find support and strategies to do so at the UK’s Jubilee Centre.

[1] Hunter, James Davison and Ryan S. Olson. The Content of Their Character (Finstock & Tew Publishers, 2018), p. 67.

Survey: School bullying continues years-long decline

New data from the National Crime Victimization Survey shows reported incidents of bullying have dropped by more than a third since 2007.

Data from the School Crime Supplement of the national survey released in mid-March shows 20.8 percent of students reported being bullied in 2015 – a nearly 11 percent decline from 2007.

According to U.S. News & World Report:

A similar – though not as significant – decrease was also seen in students reporting being called a hate-related word, with the 7.2 percent reporting such an experience in 2015 down from some 9.7 percent in 2007.

Moreover, the percentage of bullied students who reported being bullied most frequently – as in almost every day – also decreased, while the percentage reporting that they had told a teacher or other adult about being bullied increased.

A Data Point bulletin published by the U.S. Department of Education reports the School Crime Supplement involved a nationally representative sample of students between the ages of 12 and 18.

“The SCS asks students whether they were bullied or called hate-related words in the school building, on school property, on the school bus, or going to or from school,” according to the bulletin. “Specifically, students were asked to report if they were made fun of, called names, or insulted; were the subject of rumors; were threatened with harm; were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; were pressured into doing things they did not want to do; were excluded from activities on purpose; or had property destroyed on purpose.”

Students were also asked if bullying involved “hate-related words” targeting their race, religion, ethnicity, gender or disability.

This survey is good news suggesting that there are positive benefits from the growing culture-wide sensitivity to bullying. No longer is a “boys-will-be-boys” attitude tolerated. The combination of external stigma and internal programs has helped to improve school climate. Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture found that “When social institutions—whether the family, peer relationships, youth organizations, the internet, religious congregations, entertainment, or popular culture—cluster together, they form a larger ecosystem of powerful cultural influences.” Around the experience of bullying these positive influences are now bearing fruit.

“Among student who reported they were bullied, the percentage who said the frequency of bullying was ‘almost every day’ decreased from 6.6 percent in 2007 to 4.2 percent in 2015,” the U.S. Department of Education reports. “The percentage of bullied students who indicated that they reported to a teacher or another adult at school about being bullied increased from 36.1 percent in 2007 to 43.1 percent in 2015.”

U.S. News & World Report noted that the progress in combating bullying in schools as administrators “have increased their focus on bullying prevention and focused more intentionally on what’s known as social and emotional learning in an effort to improve school climate.”

For more information on the National Crime Victimization Survey, please visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics website.

Teachers and principals interested in addressing bullying in their school might find support from the following resource: Stick Together

Family’s grief over son’s suicide from bullying sparks movement to change school culture

The suicide of a 12-year-old Mississippi boy who was relentlessly tormented by school bullies is sparking a movement to divert more money to anti-bullying programs.

Cheryl Hudson told WMC Action News her son Andy Leach was teased relentlessly by kids at Southhaven Middle School – mocked as fat, ugly and worthless – and she believes it’s directly to blame for his suicide.

Her other son found Andy’s lifeless body hanging in a room at his father’s house in March.

“One minute I feel like I’m numb. The next minute I break down,” she said. “I can’t fathom another parent having to put their child in the ground the way we just did.”

Hudson channeled the grief of her son’s loss into “Andy’s Voice,” a foundation dedicated to suicide prevention and anti-bullying efforts.

Cheryl and her husband Matthew announced the new mission at a recent rally that drew dozens of folks who celebrated Andy’s life and offered messages of hope, WMC reports.

The audience included DeSoto County District 7 state Rep. Steve Hopkins, who told the news site he plans to introduce a bill called “Andy’s Law” to create a special fund to collect profits from state lotteries to fund anti-bullying programs.

“That money would be one of the sole purposes of helping our schools, resource officers, counseling, training with anti-bullying programs,” Hopkins said. “Everything that’s available to address the situations in our schools today.”

“With the representatives that we have here, with the amount of people that we have here, the noise is getting louder for change in Mississippi and that’s what we want to do,” Matthew Hudson told folks at the rally.

“This is such a big deal, not just in DeSoto County but everywhere,” Cheryl Hudson said, “and we need to start right here in our backyard and grow from there.”

While there are surveys that suggest that bullying in public schools is decreasing, Professor James Hunter of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture reminds us, “We can only care for the young in their particularity.” There are no generalizable abstractions or one-size-fits-all solutions to bullying. Every school culture in its particular moral ecology must be addressed. Hunter continues, “If we are not attentive to and understanding of these contexts, we are not caring for real, live human beings, but rather abstractions that actually don’t exist at all.” These parents are to be celebrated for turning their pain into concrete programs of action.

For more on creating a strong moral ecology in schools, see The Content of Their Character.

For teachers and principals interested in student moral and character formation, information can be found at the UK’s Jubilee Centre website.


How this nonprofit is helping teachers forge connections with families

A nonprofit education funding website is launching a campaign to help teachers raise money to host “family engagement nights” at their schools., which operates like a crowdfunding site for teachers, is working with the Carnegie Corporation of New York to help promote “family engagement nights,” where educators can better connect with the parents of students in their classrooms.

Celeste Ford, spokeswoman for the foundation, told Education Week Carnegie plans to match up to $500,000 of money raised for the family engagement nights through teacher proposals posted to

The website has helped educators raise money for their classrooms for 20 years, and Carnegie will be looking for creativity in proposals for the family engagement nights to match money raised dollar-for-dollar. Tim Sommer, partnerships director at, said the website expects to receive about 200 proposals from across the country.

“Teachers of all grade levels are eligible to apply, including those in early childhood programs, Sommer said. They will follow the same pitch process as they would for any fundraising campaign on, but must focus on explaining why they need certain supplies for their particular idea for a family engagement night,” Education Week reports.

The news site notes that the effort coincides with a change in federal regulations in the Every Student Succeeds Act that replaced a focus on “parental involvement” with one of “parent and family engagement.”

“Moral education can work where the community, and schools and other institutions within it, share a moral culture that is integrated and mutually reinforcing; where the social networks of adult authority are strong, unified, and consistent in articulating moral ideals and their attending virtues; and where adults maintain a ‘caring watchfulness’ over all aspects of a young person’s maturation,” University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter writes in The Tragedy of Moral Education in America.

Fold told Education Week that fostering a closer connection between families and teachers is a growing priority for education philanthropists. The partnership with is designed to provide funding to make that happen.

Teachers can set up a campaign on the website, and explain what goods they may need to host a family engagement night. screens applications to ensure they’re legitimate, and that teachers requesting help are from a traditional public school or public charter school. Once approved, the fundraising begins and can last up to four months, or until the goal is met.

Once the campaign is fully funded, orders the materials and sends them directly to the teacher. The site has helped teachers raise nearly $600 million over the last two decades, with the average project funded at just under $600. expects to approve proposals for family engagement nights with the hope of turning them into a reality by the end of February. The site will also ask parents and community members to fill out a survey to gauge which programs worked best.

“Those who successfully fill out the information on site right after the activity will get a gift card through which they can play the role of education philanthropist by deciding which project in their school or district should get some more funding,” Education Week reports.

When this principal calls parents, it’s for good reason

New Jersey elementary school principal Jennifer Asprocolas is making a lot of phone calls to parents this year, and for good reason.

“Honestly, my first thought was that something was wrong, more specifically one of my boys were sick and needed to be picked up from school,” said parent Marlena Romeo, recalling a recent call from Asprocolas about her son Chase. “When Ms. Asprocolas greeted me by asking me how I was doing, my response to her was that it depended on how the rest of the phone call went.”

Asprocolas explained that teachers at Schoenly School nominated her son for displaying good character, and she wanted Romeo to know the recognition earned a Positive Phone Call Home, a weekly ritual Asprocolas launched to recognize students who set a good example.

“When Chase came home he was so proud and excited to tell Gavin (his older brother) and his grandparents about what had happened,” Romeo told TAP into Milltown/Spotswood.

“He started off by telling them that he went to the principal’s office and she called home. He wanted to scare them before he told them that it was a positive phone call home. It was a big deal to Chase,” Romeo said. “The cutest thing he said was that he wanted to continue to be a good example because he didn’t want them to be sorry that they picked him.”

It’s not surprising that parents love this program. The “Culture of American Families” report from the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture shows an overwhelming percentage of parents—over 90 percent—“want their children to develop into loving, morally upright, reliable, and hardworking adults who preserve close ties to their families.”

Asprocolas told the news site she thinks it’s important to instill strong character at a young age. Each Thursday, she distributes a survey to teachers, who nominate students in pre-kindergarten through first grade based on virtues like trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.

Asprocolas surprises the winner in class, where the student poses with a special frame that looks like a Facebook post, which officials send out on the school’s social media accounts.

“On Friday mornings, I go into the class with the frame, take the picture and then we come back to my office to make the positive phone call home,” she told the news site.

“It actually started because . . . I wanted to boost more about character education,” Asprocolas said. “I think it’s important that we instill this in our young children, especially in early education.”

The principal added that the “priceless moments” she shares with the students and their families is a powerful way of connecting on a personal level.

“I’ve gotten everything from surprise to tearful to overjoyed,” she said of the responses. “A lot of ‘you’re going to get ice cream tonight,’ too.”

Asprocolas’ Positive Phone Call Home program unites school and family culture by creating a true celebration for parents to take pride in their child’s good character, while also cultivating a strong connection between the two. As University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter has written, “Moral education can work where the community, and schools and other institutions within it, share a moral culture that is integrated and mutually reinforcing: where the social networks of adult authority are strong, unified, and consistent in articulating moral ideals and their attending virtues; and where adults maintain a ‘caring watchfulness’ over all aspects of a young person’s maturation.”

School leaders can create a school-wide character focus beginning with a coherent framework like the one from the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues.


Parent attacks teacher, invites reflection on the power of family culture

Pittsburgh mother Daishonta Williams is setting an example for her daughter, from the Allegheny County Jail.

Williams, 29, currently faces multiple counts of aggravated assault after she allegedly stalked Janice Watkins, a PreK–8th-grade teacher at Pittsburgh King, before smashing her in the face with a brick at a traffic stop earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

School officials called Williams to meet earlier in the day because Watkins alleged her 10-year-old daughter bit her when she confiscated the girl’s cellphone. King has a no phone policy for students.

Williams’ daughter claimed Watkins, 46, choked her during a dispute, and Williams demanded “appropriate action.” Watkins denied choking the child, and an upset Williams left the parent-teacher conference promising Watkins “was going to get it later,” court records show.

According to the Post-Gazette:

Ms. Watkins told police that she was sitting in her car on the ramp to the West End Bridge around 3:15 p.m. when she noticed a man and a woman get out of a vehicle they’d parked on the right shoulder. Ms. Watkins was on the phone with her mother and her driver’s side window was rolled down, she said.

Ms. Watkins said the two people approached her car. The woman, whom Ms. Watkins identified as Ms. Williams, then threw a brick through the open window and into Ms. Watkins’ face, according to police.

The couple also allegedly dragged Watkins from the car and stomped and punched her in the roadway, KDKA reports.

Watkins’ husband, a teacher in the district who did not want to be identified, told the television station Watkins was left with a cracked molar, bloody lip, and “lumps all along her forehead and all along the side of her face.”

Police caught up with Williams on a stoop on North Charles Street the next day, and she allegedly owned up to the attack, telling officers “I ain’t gonna lie. I did it,” according to court records.

Police also arrested Williams’ boyfriend, Vincent Beasley, for allegedly helping Williams during the assault.

Williams told WPXI the night before her arrest that she punched Watkins, but denied using a brick.

“I did get out and I did hit her, but I did not throw a brick through the window as they say I did,” Williams said. “I did not. I punched her in her face.”

Regardless, there’s little doubt Williams’ daughter, as well as other impressionable youngsters, are watching and learning.

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture highlighted the impact family and school communities have on character in its “Culture of American Families” report.

“It is true that the seedbeds of virtue are found within many overlapping domains that would include the school, peer relationships, places of worship, the internet, and popular culture, but most important of all is the family and its culture,” according to the report. “Family culture acts as a filter for the larger culture, and its role in forming character ideals among the young is fundamental and irreducible to other factors.”

While both parenting and teaching require courage, wisdom, and civility, family culture has the biggest influence on shaping those virtues in children, whether it’s positive or negative.

Watkins’ mother, Betty Davis, reflected on that reality in an interview with KDKA.

“My heart goes out to the child, because what has that mother taught that child?” Davis said. “Whatever it is, you solve it with violence.”

Watkins, who is slowly recovering, said she’s now forced to confront how her job—which regularly involves attacks from students—is influencing her family’s culture.

“Although my students are my babies, I do have babies,” the mother of four told KDKA. “Why do I have to choose between the babies that I birthed and my babies at school? But now I have to choose.”

NYC families cite positive family culture as big benefit of learning from home

Parents in New York City are touting the benefits of homeschooling, particularly the more intimate experience with their children that tailors learning to their needs and strengths.

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture’s “Culture of American Families” report finds that the benefits of a tight family culture also extend beyond academics to shape students’ moral character and perspective on the world.

Fox 5 recently featured Hell’s Kitchen mother, Sara Doldan, who opted to homeschool her 5-year-old daughter, Willow, through K12 International Academy.

“It just really caught my attention because I knew that I could really have more of an influence on her overall future with whatever she decided to do,” Doldan said.

The flexibility allowed her to emphasize Willow’s academic interests and strengths as she completes her coursework with 6-year-old neighbor, Ariana Simmons, who uses the same online school.

Ariana, an aspiring actress, explained why she loves learning from home.

“It allows me to go at my own pace,” she said, “And, as an actress, singer, and writer, it allows me to pursue my dreams.”

Ariana’s mother, Dalli, also cited the close relationship parents build with their children as a big benefit.

“You also get to see where they’re struggling,” she said. “You get to understand both from an academic way, but also from a social and emotional.”

The “Culture of American Families” project interviewed more than 100 parents of school-age children, and the results show a positive family culture can also have big benefits for children in several important ways.

Researchers concluded “that the seedbeds of virtue are found within many overlapping domains that would include school, peer relationships, places of worship, the internet, and popular culture, but the most important of all is the family and its culture.”

“Family culture acts as a filter for the larger culture, and its role in forming character ideas among the young is fundamental and irreducible to other factors,” the CAF researchers wrote. “Whether or not parents are deliberate about it, they create a moral ecology through which children come to understand and internalize the moral life of the larger world.”

Laurie Spigel, founder of Home, told Fox News many of the city’s roughly 4,600 homeschooling families chose the alternative education model because their children come home from public schools bored and disengaged.

Many also want to instill character virtues in their children that are often overlooked in traditional academic settings.

And Spigel asserts that the process of learning at home ultimately sets students up for success, in part because they stand out from the majority who attend traditional schools.

“Colleges actively seek out homeschoolers,” she said. “They know that they’ve had an experience in education that’s more diverse than the standardized package that’s delivered in most public schools. And colleges are looking for diversity.”

She contends that colleges are also looking for students with strong character.

“They’re . . . looking for self-starters, independent learners, and people who know themselves. And because homeschoolers have been given this educational freedom, they’ve had the freedom to learn what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, so they know themselves and what they want to learn much more easily than a kid who hasn’t had those choices,” she said.