Freda Deskin, Ph.D., is an educational expert who founded ASTEC Charter Schools to provide students with a better chance of real success. And over the years, her increasingly well-respected educational model has helped thousands of students start new careers and become tireless and skilled professionals. Recently, Dr. Freda Deskin sat down to discuss how ASTEC Charter Schools can benefit student success rates and what separates her school from public education.
Why Dr. Freda Deskin Believes ASTEC Charter Schools Help Students
As a result, Dr. Freda Deskin believes that some highly-intelligent students who may be bored by standard public education can succeed in a charter school. Placing these students in an environment designed for them is critical for their success. And at ASTEC Charter Schools, they can focus on a variety of different unique programs, including various mechanical options and engineering concepts.
Advanced classes appeal to gifted students, Dr. Freda Deskin argues and engages them in ways that public school cannot. And those who plan on getting advanced degrees particularly benefit from ASTEC Charter Schools. That’s because this school utilizes a setup that is similar to the intensity of the college environment. As a result, students can be prepared to handle this transition more easily.
The same is true of underserved populations of students who may be academically behind. Special recovery classes are designed for them to catch up and move beyond.
How ASTEC Charter Schools Enhances a Student’s Character
While ASTEC Charter Schools helps immerse gifted students in challenging courses, Dr. Freda Deskin also believes that it helps with student character. Crowded traditional public schools and overworked teachers try their best to instill a strong work ethic and morals in students but don’t always succeed because there are just too many students. Unfailingly, many fall through the cracks.
When a student goes to ASTEC Charter Schools, Dr. Freda Deskin makes sure that they are paired with teachers who understand their unique interests and needs. Each student gets time to interact with their teacher in a more intimate environment. By building a better understanding between students and teachers, ASTEC Charter Schools helps to enhance student character and improve educational transparency, Dr. Freda Deskin states.
Dr. Freda Deskin celebrates her 50th consecutive year in education and looks back at how the art of teaching has changed in that time.
Freda Deskin, Ph.D., award-winning educator and founder of ASTEC Charter Schools, can mark a new achievement off of her bucket list. As of this year, Dr. Freda Deskin will have spent 50 consecutive years working in education. It’s quite an achievement on its own, but it also stood as a symbol of the progress that Dr. Freda Deskin has seen in the education system over time.
Dr. Freda Deskin Celebrates and Remembers Her 50 Years in Education
Every passing year gives us a chance to reflect and remember how much we’ve grown. In Dr. Freda Deskin’s case, her 50th consecutive year in education gives her a lot of reflecting to do! Fortunately, Dr. Freda Deskin sat down to talk about the positive change she’s seen in education during her 5-decade tenure:
- “When I began teaching, teachers were not allowed to teach if they were more than 3 months pregnant and women teachers were not allowed to wear slacks. School was never dismissed for inclement weather and children and teachers bundled up and went out for recess no matter the temperature. There was no air conditioning in the schools. These things no longer exist in schools.”
- “Until the late 70’s the top one-fourth of the women in a high school graduating class went into teaching. As more opportunities for women came about, fewer of these women entered the field of education. This led to more prescriptive teaching models.”
- “There’s been a lot of progress in just the last few years of my time in education. The Internet has provided an amazing resource for both students and teachers to learn. Computers, tablets, and other devices help students explore and gather new information faster than ever before. It also helps teachers organize lessons and teach using virtual platforms.” – Dr. Freda Deskin
- “When I remember back to my first years in education, it seems like 1,000 years ago! So much has changed since then. The approach to education was focused more on teaching the basics to mastery. As more and more state legislative mandates to add social lessons have passed, these basics have been squeezed out. Domestic violence, for example, is an important topic that once was taught in the home or in our churches. Now that is taught in school and must replace other topics.- Dr. Freda Deskin
- “Reforms in education have put more power into the hands of the government. Like most changes, this comes with the good and the bad. On the one hand, it helps standardize education to ensure that there’s a fair playing field for every student. On the other hand, it can leave some teachers feeling like they’re just ‘teaching for the test’ or having to take on the role of parents and social services. Of course, there are ways around this, and we always aim to put our students first. At ASTEC Charter Schools, tests are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.” – Dr. Freda Deskin
- “There have also been a lot of changes in how educators and students interact. Before, corporal punishment was typical in a school. Today it is a rare exception. There are a lot more protections for both students and teachers. This helps foster a safer environment in which to learn.” – Dr. Freda Deskin
- “School administrators today must wear more hats than in the past. They must be instructional leaders and understand sound business practices.” – Dr. Freda Deskin
- “Not only do I appreciate many of the changes in education over the past 50 years, I look forward to the future. As technology and laws evolve, I believe that it will be easier for students of all backgrounds to get a quality education, even if it all takes place in a virtual sphere! Our biggest challenge is getting people to go into teaching and administration. ” – Dr. Freda Deskin
Dr. Freda Deskin provides an in-depth look at the leadership development for the staff and student body at ASTEC Charter Schools.
It takes a special kind of educator to foster real leadership in a school environment. Like any organization, school leadership must start at the top. Fortunately, ASTEC Charter Schools are led by Freda Deskin, Ph.D., an educator with decades of experience and numerous accolades.
However, leadership isn’t just limited to one person. An organization needs to have multiple people working as positive role models for everyone else. This is especially important in a school environment like ASTEC.
Dr. Freda Deskin on the Role of Leadership at ASTEC Charter Schools
As Dr. Freda Deskin will tell you, leadership can’t be built overnight. It takes dedication, open-mindedness, and a great deal of trial and error. Here’s what Freda Deskin had to say about leadership development at ASTEC Charter Schools:
- “At ASTEC Charter Schools, we take the approach that the school administrators must know enough about all aspects of the school in order to be able to see the big picture. We work toward the notion that “Excellence is a Habit,” and that the little things count. “Everyone must be focused og the mission of the school . I listen to my staff and department heads so that we can run our organization as efficiently as possible. This way, we provide the students with the best possible environment in which to learn and grow.” – Freda Deskin
- “When we are onboarding a new teacher or staff member, we implement our own brand of leadership training. This training helps foster a wide range of skills, from practicing best practices in the classroom to developing an appropriate relationship as a mentor with each student. At the end of the day, this helps ensure that we have positive role models in every position at our schools.” – Freda Deskin
- “We don’t want to just train leaders to teach our students. We want to train the next generation of local, state, national, and world leaders. In some schools, students simply show up out of obligation and feel unmotivated to learn. This is primarily because they feel a complete lack of control in a school setting. This is why we allow students to guide class discussions and develop leadership skills through trial and error.” – Freda Deskin
- “Whenever possible, we infuse basic leadership development into our curriculum. It might be a group project that requires one student to be the team leader or a classroom challenge that gives each student a chance to lead the direction of the lesson. Naturally, it varies by age group and subject matter, but the point is that quality leadership is one of the most important skills that we can teach the next generation.” – Freda Deskin
“Though we have many goals at ASTEC Charter Schools, empowering our teachers and students is one of the most important. I like to think that we help develop leaders on a daily basis, especially among our student body. I hope to see a future president of the United States graduate from our school!” – Freda Deskin
Students Need to Continue Their Volunteer Hours Despite Pandemic, Dr. Freda Deskin Urges
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students across the country participated in charity work. It provided them with volunteer hours that could help them with their academic standing, improve their chances for scholarships, and more. Freda Deskin, Ph.D., the founder of ASTEC Charter Schools, has worked with students throughout Oklahoma.
As a teacher, Dr. Freda Deskin acknowledges the many benefits of working with a charity. It can help students to support the community they live in. It can also teach the importance of giving back. The awareness that volunteering teaches cannot be taught in any other way.
Many students have stopped volunteering due to the pandemic. Dr. Freda Deskin urges students to continue to get involved inside of their community. This can be done by working with underprivileged children, offering academic tutoring, or even working volunteering at their school through Zoom, Google Meet or Facebook groups. Most organizations have access to one or both of these online platforms. Students can use Google Meet for free through their Google gmail account.
Dr. Freda Deskin has worked with a variety of non-profit boards and was selected three times for the “50 Making a Difference” award or The Journal Record. She has contributed heavily to the community and can provide recommendations for students looking to be involved. Dr. Freda Deskin suggests that students look at areas where they already have an interest. Many of the organizations Dr. Freda Deskin works with are for women and underprivileged children because it is where she is passionate. She talks about how girls can work with the Girl Scouts or even learn about some of the inner-city programs that can help to support girls who come from poverty.
Dr. Freda Deskin acknowledges that there may be more opportunities to volunteer with charities during the pandemic than ever before. Even if students want to keep a distance in order to practice social distancing, there are ways to help charities. It’s all about getting involved. Students may be able to get volunteer hours by offering online assistance, answering phones, and even performing marketing tasks.
Dr. Freda Deskin recommends that students set a goal for the total number of volunteer hours that they want to obtain. Then, they can choose to work with just a single charity or multiple, depending on availability and what the opportunities are. Most charities will be happy to have the help. Students can create a resume to identify what skills they have to ensure that charities know what support they can expect to receive. Upon completing volunteer hours, students should also request a formal letter to identify how many volunteer hours were performed. This can be used for academic purposes as well as to submit alongside scholarship applications.
Dr. Freda Deskin continues to support her community and strives to be an example for students of all ages. Despite a pandemic, she urges students to get involved and support charities in any way possible.
How Charter Schools are Thriving Over Public Schools | Dr. Freda Deskin
All across America, people want to help their children get the best possible education. Freda Deskin, Ph.D., an award-winning educator for over 40 years, has identified a variety of benefits that charter schools offer to today’s youth.
Are public schools failing? Dr. Freda Deskin has pondered this question heavily over the years. Some are and some aren’t. That is also true of public charter schools, online schools, and private schools. Failure is sometimes due to leadership and sometimes it is funding. Funding for public schools is not equitable. Funding too often relies on the industries located in a particular district. Some schools have 5 or even 10 times the amount of money to spend on students just because they are fortunate enough to be getting revenue from local industries. As such, traditional public schools aren’t the right answer for everyone.
This leads to one of the reasons Dr. Freda Deskin founded ASTEC Charter Schools in 2000. ASTEC is an inner-city public school located in Oklahoma City, designed to serve a population of students that are diverse, with a poverty rate of 97 percent. She finds that though charter schools receive far less funding than traditional public schools, charter schools with strong leaders are capable of promoting diversity more effectively than in most traditional public schools.
Another benefit of charter schools, according to Dr. Freda Deskin, is that they often allow for better teacher to student ratios. With a reduced class size, it’s easier to focus on the individual learning needs of the students. Dr. Freda Deskin says that it allows teachers to meet the needs of all instead of teaching to the lowest students while half the class becomes bored – or the other way around, leaving over half the class to struggle.
Charter schools must do a better job or they shouldn’t exist. Charter schools have the additional pressure that, unlike a traditional school, they can be shut down for lack of student progress or fiscal mismanagement.
There’s a significant amount of parental choice involved with charter schools. Dr. Freda Deskin explains that with public schools, parents are simply at the mercy of where they live to determine what school their child is to attend. With charter schools, there’s more choice. Every charter school does things a bit differently. They offer areas of specialization. It is almost like choosing a college, allowing parents to “interview” the charter schools. Charter schools feel the competition.
Additionally, as Dr. Freda Deskin is quick to point out, while charter schools must follow all state and federal laws and regulations there are a few differences that cut down on the bureaucracy that traditional schools face. Since charter schools have site-based management, the turn-around time for decisions is much faster.
While teachers in charter schools must teach the same state and federal standards, subjects, and testing, they are encouraged to use the methods of teaching that work best for their students. Innovation is the expected norm for teachers in charter schools.
Dr. Freda Deskin has identified that while parental involvement is no greater than in a public school with a similar population, the parents want what the charter school offers and take advantage of that choice.
While Dr. Freda Deskin identifies that not all charter schools are perfect, they offer a wide array of benefits that aren’t typically found within larger public education systems.
Aside from their health, the most important and influential element in your child’s formative years is their education. Of course, it’s not just the academics that affect students, either. Culture, demographics, activities and clubs, environment, and any particular focus the school may have — for example, an immersive language program or a STEM-centered curriculum — are also part and parcel of what makes a particular educational institution a good choice for your family.
Dr. Freda Deskin, whose decades-long career helping children learn, thrive, and succeed makes her one of the nation’s most notable educators, offers some advice. Here are her top five questions to ask as you begin your search for the perfect school.
Will the School Meet Our Practical Needs?
Before going any further, you will want to find out about practical issues such as school start and end times, transportation options, after-school activities or programs, and whether students receive breakfast and lunch.
If your schedule doesn’t accommodate driving a child 20 minutes to school each morning, or if you can’t pick them up afterward and there’s no after-school program, the remainder of your questions will be moot.
What Is the Student to Teacher Ratio?
This can be an excellent barometer of a school’s quality. When there is a high student to teacher ratio, the teachers are stretched thin — which makes it much more difficult for them to connect with each child.
Dr. Freda Deskin says that while teacher’s aides and parent volunteers can help, most of the time a teacher won’t have full-time assistance.
How Do Teachers Handle Poor Behavior?
Discipline can be a sticky issue, but it is essential that you know how behavioral problems will be addressed. Some schools use a system of demerits, detention, and suspension; others use sticker charts or another method of rewarding good behavior. There is a wide range of behavioral management systems. Find out about the school’s official policy, but also ask how much leeway instructors have to implement their own methods.
Even if your child is a perfect angel, remember that sooner or later they will be impacted by others’ behavior — and you’ll want bullying or other problems to be handled appropriately. So if the school’s approach doesn’t jibe with your parenting style, you will likely be better off elsewhere.
Can You Tell Me About Your Standards and Curriculum?
According to Dr. Freda Deskin, a school’s standards relate to the specific skills taught at each grade level, and what the students are expected to know, understand, or do before moving on to the next grade. Its curriculum, of course, is the materials and methods that teachers use to help students meet those goals. Some parents insist on an atmosphere of academic rigor; others prioritize creative pursuits or the freedom for a child to explore their own interests and steer their own education.
To What Extent Can Parents Be Involved?
Does the school have an active PTA or other parent-involved organization? How do teachers communicate with parents? Is it possible for you to volunteer in your child’s classroom or elsewhere in the school? Do the parents have any say in school policies or procedures? Explains Dr. Freda Deskin, these are all good questions that will give you a sense of how receptive administrators and teachers will be to you playing an active role in your child’s education.
What educational considerations are most important for you and your family? Have you had to choose a school for one or more of your children, and if so, how did you go about making that decision? Connect with us on social media to share your thoughts!
As a parent, you make decisions every day that affect your children’s’ health, happiness, well-being, and even their future. One of the most important decisions you’ll ever make is which school your kids will attend. And while academic excellence is certainly one of the crucial criteria informing your choice of school, there are other elements that must be considered: the number and type of extracurricular activities, how dedicated and compassionate the staff and teachers are, the diversity of the student body, and the overall atmosphere where your child will be spending the majority of their days.
Freda Deskin, CEO of ASTEC Charter Schools in Oklahoma City, wants to make the case for considering a charter school. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where charter schools have been established, they may very well represent the best decision for your children. Read on to learn why!
1. The More Choice, the Better
In rural communities, there may be only one public school available. In inner cities, public schools and their students often struggle with issues such as poverty, violence, high levels of teacher turnover (and burnout), and outdated or inadequate materials and supplies. There may be private schools to provide an alternative, but for families that are middle- to lower-class, a private-school education simply isn’t in the budget.
Enter charter schools. According to Freda Deskin, they provide the same quality education as private schools, but without the private-school price tag.
2. A Diverse Environment
At public schools, eligibility for enrollment usually depends on the student’s address. And that makes sense: bussing children from distant neighborhoods is an expense that most public schools, already strapped for funding, simply can’t justify.
Charter schools, on the other hand, are open to any student, regardless of where they live. This generally results in a much more diverse student body — and that, in turn, will enrich your child’s educational experience by exposing them to different cultures, customs, and viewpoints.
3. Greater Freedom — and Accountability
One of the major reasons parents choose charter schools for their children is the freedom these educational institutions generally have to develop and apply their own curricula, administrative model, and pedagogical approach. They can set policies and standards according to what’s best for the students — not just what’s least expensive, or what state-mandated programs require.
The other side of that coin, increased accountability, is yet another plus, says Freda Deskin. Because charter schools are accountable to the families they serve, they are motivated to meet high standards. If they do not meet their self-directed goals, parents will respond by transferring their students to another school.
4. Specializations Result In Better Education
What subjects make your children excited about learning? Where do their interests lie? Are they already setting their sights on a particular career path? While most public schools provide a basic education that covers the core subjects, charter schools are free to specialize in a particular area of education.
At ASTEC, Freda Deskin and her colleagues help inspire kids who enjoy science and technology. Other charter schools focus on the performing and/or visual arts, business and leadership, career and technical education, dual-language instruction, and so on. That isn’t to say that they ignore core subjects, but by providing specialized, in-depth instruction, charter schools engage their students and encourage them to follow their passion — leading to higher attendance rates and graduation rates, among other benefits.
5. Smaller Class Size
Public schools are often overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed. This means a much lower teacher-to-student ratio and much less opportunity for teachers to connect with individual students. Sometimes, all it takes to turn around a troubled child or a poor academic performer is a little bit of attention from their instructors. At charter schools, this type of connection is possible because of smaller classes as well as teachers who have the time and energy to build a relationship with each and every child.
Charter school advocates such as Freda Deskin say that there are many more benefits to this type of education. No matter what goals you have set for your children, or where their interests and strengths lie, there is a charter school that can help them achieve academic and social success.
As a long-time educator, whether Dr. Freda Deskin was teaching in common education or higher education or as a school leader, she has tried to live by example and insist that others make excellence a habit in all they do. It is easier to take the time to do a task right the first time than to pay the consequences of more time and effort later.
As a teacher, Freda Deskin stresses to students that she would only accept their best work. If there was not a heading, the work was sloppy or incomplete, she would quietly ask them if the work was their best. Dr. Freda Deskin would ask them to look closely at the paper in her hand. She would ask if they saw anything that was not excellent. If the heading or their name was missing or if there were stains on the paper, they would immediately take the paper back, exclaiming they would redo the paper.
Making excellence a habit takes time. This includes excellence in everything, including behavior. Reminding students regularly from the first day of the year and continuing throughout the year is a must. Before long, the papers get amazingly better once the idea of excellence is brought to a conscious level and reinforced.
“Giving positive reinforcement each time a paper of excellence was turned in motivated students to focus on excellence and to check and recheck their work since reviewing a task multiple times is important in achieving excellence as a habit,” said Freda Deskin.
There are many tasks and projects daily in a school classroom. Students prepare posters for presentations. Dr. Freda Deskin went over with her students how an excellent poster should look. Once they agreed, she created a rubric for them to refer to. Was there a title, was it centered and was there an equal border all around the text and graphics? Freda Deskin taught them how to perfectly center a title done by hand by counting all the letters for each title row and then determining the middle letter or space and then adding letters to the right and then going back and filling in the right side of the lettering.
Whether students were putting their name on a paper, presenting their best work or double-checking completed work, when it is frequently brought to a conscious level, what they turn in improves and carries over to other classes and other parts of their lives. Dr. Freda Deskin has had many former students thank her for teaching them this habit.
“The same is true in business and at home. When we are aware of what we are presenting, either internally or externally, checking our work for excellence and for accuracy is the same. supervisors and administrators who insist on excellence throughout their business or school will see a marked difference in everything, including the building and offices,” explained Dr. Deskin.
Teaching everyone from the maintenance staff, to the secretaries, to the professional staff that excellence is expected and that anything less changes outcomes. Buildings become better kept and tidier. Old signs are removed along with the remains of tape and hand-written signs. Lobbies become free of clutter and offices are clean and attractive. Customer service becomes better, but it does take frequent reminders and follow through until excellence becomes the norm in the organization.
“When excellence becomes a habit, people think about the content and structure of their emails and other communications before they send them out. Spreadsheets and documents have proper headings, subheadings and cell headings. All communication becomes more thoughtful, intentional and user-friendly,” added Dr. Freda Deskin.
Fewer mistakes are made on final products. Everyone learns that for excellence to become a habit, you must measure twice and cut once. With fewer mistakes, less time is taken to redo the work and less likely to require follow-up communication or meetings. When excellence becomes a habit, there is far greater efficiency.
Making excellence a habit is a shift in mindset and awareness. Once it is a habit, it doesn’t even take conscious thought to check and prepare or do a task correctly the first time. It becomes second nature. Dr. Freda Deskin often thinks of how the world would be so much different if we taught and learned the valuable lesson making excellence a habit from an early age.
One of the most important — and difficult — decisions a parent has to make is what school their children should attend. Is private school worth the expense? Can they get a good education from the overworked, underpaid teachers at an overcrowded public school? Do you have the necessary initiative and self-discipline to homeschool your child?
There is another option, and it might be the perfect one for your family: Charter schools. Dr. Freda Deskin, the founder, administrator, and CEO of the 20-year-old, ASTEC Charter Schools in Oklahoma City, has all the answers to your questions.
Q: First Things First: What Is a Charter School?
A: Charter schools are public schools that are independently operated by an organization, university, or government agency. Unlike traditional public schools, they have the autonomy to set their own educational objectives, and their standards often exceed those of school districts or even states.
Q: How Many Charter Schools Are There?
A: The United States is home to 7,000 charter schools. They are frequently located in inner-city areas, but suburban and rural charter schools do exist, says Freda Deskin.
Q: Do Families Have to Pay Tuition?
A: No, charter schools are free for students and their families. Most of them are run as non-profit organizations. They receive public funding based on their enrollment numbers, although in many cases they get less funding than traditional public schools.
Q: What Sets Them Apart from Other Schools?
A: Since charter schools are free from the usual constraints and requirements of public school curricula and criteria, many of them have a particular specialty, goal, or demographic. For example, some charter schools are aligned with Montessori principles; others focus on college preparation. There are charter schools that are geared toward gifted and talented students, while some, like ASTEC Charter School, have a strong STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) component. According to Freda Deskin, bilingual instruction is another fairly common characteristic of charters.
Q: Are There Prerequisites or Entrance Exams?
A: No, charter schools are open to all students, and there are no admission requirements. They are considered “schools of choice,” explains Freda Deskin. This means that a student will not be enrolled in a charter school based on where they live, which is usually the organizing principle behind traditional public schools. Instead, the student and their family must opt in and apply to a charter school. If there are more applicants than there is capacity, a random lottery will decide which students get in.
Q: How Can I Find a Charter School That Will Suit My Child?
A: Dr. Freda Deskin advises that you start by searching on the Center for Education Reform’s website. You can also get in touch with your State Department of education to find out about options in your particular area.