National School Choice Week 2013, which runs from Jan. 27 through Feb. 2, shines a spotlight on the need for education opportunities for all. In only its third year, this bipartisan, grassroots effort features more than 3,500 events spanning all 50 states.
This week in Columbus, Ohio, parents from across the city came to explore their school options at a community “school shopper” fair. Teachers and principals touted their schools and tried to woo parents who are exploring alternatives for their children’s education.
Parents came with questions:
- “What services do you offer for students with special needs?”
- “What transportation options are available at your school?”
- “What data do you have to show how your students are achieving?”
But not a single parent there asked or cared whether the schools they were investigating were public or private.
All parents want to find is a school that is high quality – one that will help prepare their children to succeed in life – and a good fit – a match for their child’s learning style, personality, and interests.
School Choice Success in Ohio
In Ohio, parents are fortunate that state funding follows many children to the school their parents choose in the form of open enrollment, school vouchers, charter schools, and magnet schools.
And this ability of parents to choose raises the bar for all schools. Studies in Florida and Wisconsin have shown that when parents are empowered to vote with their feet, schools respond by stepping up their game and both kids who leave and those who stay see their test scores rise.
We have seen this dynamic here in Ohio too:
- After the creation of a school voucher program targeted to students with autism, one district immediately created a committee to see how they could better serve these students.
- Private schools are borrowing ideas from local charter schools on blended learning.
- Responding to the outside options that are available to students, public districts are offering their own truly outstanding options.
Far from school choice being the death of public education, it is enlivening the systems that we know we can do better for the children who rely on them.
It’s All about the Children
School choice gives parents who often feel powerless a voice by giving them a choice — the chance to vote with their feet and make the decisions that are best for them and their children.
As parents become more and more savvy about school choice and demand better options, they are resisting simple marketing ploys and asking for cold, hard facts about student growth, college remediation rates, personalized course options, and career readiness. This bottom-up accountability gives leverage to those working within the school sectors to make them more responsive and effective.
School choice has everything to do with raising the bar for our students. And the stakes are high. Every year produces grim statistics about US education that reflect a massive amount of wasted human potential.
All Kids as “Our Kids”
Ultimately, there is a national movement that is moving on from the ugly politicking over the status quo. More and more families, community leaders, policymakers, and teachers are working hard to cultivate a dynamic set of systems that provide results for students (and therefore families, neighborhoods, towns, cities, and states) over the long term. They are claiming students in ALL education settings as “our kids.”
One local school public school principal said it best: “I’m happy to tell parents about other educational programs. I want parents to want to come to my school, but not because they don’t know they have options.”
Hear more from Ohio parents about how school choice is providing them with life-changing opportunities:
Next on School Choice Week — School Choice: The Internet, College Education, and the Local Church