“School choice wasn’t the difference between two schools; it was the difference between two different paths of life,” said Friendship Collegiate Academy senior Daniel Spruill at the 2014 National School Choice Week whistle-stop event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night.
In its fourth year, National School Choice Week (NSCW) celebrates the educational opportunity offered through school choice and raises awareness of the millions of families that are unable to choose where their children attend school.
In the recently released Choice Media film The Ticket, viewers ride with the 2013 NSCW whistle-stop tour on a cross-country journey of the stories of American families who use school choice to meet their children’s unique educational needs.
School choice comes in many shapes and forms. The Ticket offers a window into the many existing options school choice offers—parent trigger laws, homeschooling, inter-district exchange, charter schools, vouchers, online learning, and private school—that exist from coast-to-coast.
The beauty of school choice lies in its variety. The school choice movement epitomizes the truth that each child is unique and one size does not fit all. It also returns accountability to the children’s main teachers: the parents.
The testimonies of the parents and children benefitting from school choice speak loudest.
During the whistle-stop in Kansas City, Missouri, one grandparent describes the great lengths she will go to give her granddaughter a better educational option with inter-district school choice. “If we have to get up, which is what we do at four in the morning now, for her to catch a bus at 6:05 and be transported 20 miles from home, then that’s what we have to do,” she says.
Inter-district school choice breaks district boundaries and allows children who would otherwise attend a failing school an opportunity to attend a better performing school.
According to Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri, 2,600 students applied for inter-district choice in the St. Louis area, which is about 25 percent of the eligible students.
The stop in Chicago showed a boom in the city’s charter school sector, which now serves 52,000 children.
Perspectives Charter School in Chicago teaches more than academics. It teaches students how to lead a disciplined life.
“I think Perspectives offers a wide range of values, and it teaches self-discipline, which is something a lot of kids need,” says a Perspectives graduate. “Perspectives gives students hope, and that is something that every kid needs. I believe the scariest thing is a kid walking down the street without hope.”
Others talked about the difference attending a private school, thanks to a school voucher, has made.
“Every day I see kids my age on the streets doing drugs, throwing their life away,” says a student who now attends St. Martin de Porres in Cleveland with her school voucher. “Being where I am today is a miracle, because not a lot of kids will have this opportunity, and they don’t have those parents that care, and they don’t have the love and the nurture that this school provides and my family provides.”
Online learning is a more recent development in school choice options.
The tour paid a visit to Pennsylvania, which has now authorized 16 cyber charter schools that can reach any student within its boundaries. Online learning allows students to learn 24 hours, seven days a week and aim at mastery of content instead of “pushing students along” a fixed classroom progression.
“The ticket to the American dream is a quality education—one that both challenges and motivates a child,” say Choice Media producers. “School choice is a very American movement.… Every year National School Choice Week celebrates the innovation and variety coming to education.”
As NSCW 2014 kicks off, let’s remember that this movement is, at its heart, driven by parents who want the best education possible for their children—the ticket to the American Dream.