This week is National School Choice Week. The homepage for this event declares that this celebratory seven days is, “Shining a spotlight on effective education options for every child.”
Portland has its own brand of school choice, resulting in lotteries for parents desperate to leave the failing school in their neighborhood or perhaps just looking for a school that is more innovative, smaller, or more creative than their closest school. The NCLB sanctions to schools that do not meet AYP for a certain number of years in a row also allow for bussing children from their struggling school to one that is evaluated as stronger in student achievement in elementary and middle schools…although the policy has changed for high schools, I believe.
School choice presents a problem, especially for those of us who are parents living in neighborhoods where the schools do not have the best achievement results. It is wonderful that I can possibly win a lottery slot for my daughter to go into an immersion program, but I personally am torn between supporting and trying to lift up my neighborhood school and potentially putting my children in a program that will be more intellectually stimulating.
Even while torn, I do not believe that school choice is a long-term answer for the inequities in our schools. While some tote school choice as the answer and believe that competition will end in better schools for all, what I know from observation and experience is that many children will get left behind. And I fundamentally believe that all neighborhood schools should provide creative, stimulating, strong learning environments for local kids. School choice often depletes neighborhood schools, leaving them more underfunded and without the resources of additional parents who can be involved in school support. To read more about this problem, please check out Maureen Costello’s blog post in the Huffington Post. The title of her post alone should inspire you to read more on this issue: “School Choice: It’s Not for Everyone, and That’s the Problem.”