Here Are the Real MVPs of National School Choice Week

Jan 23, 2018 12:00:00 AM


It’s  National School Choice Week (NSCW)! All week, we're celebrating those who work to provide available and accessible, high-quality options for students and families. Though the celebration is not limited to non-traditional public schools, charter school proponents lead the pack with festivities honoring the seminal role they play on the school choice stage. These are just a few: Education reformers, charter school leaders, grassroots organizers and policy wonks certainly deserve a pat on the back, but there are others that deserve to  publicly take a bow.

School Districts Making It Happen

Too many school district leaders throughout the country are hostile to charter schools and other school options. The hostility manifest in either one or two ways: They either offer superficial choice or they create a choice process impossible for parents to navigate. Superficial choice says to parents, "Looky, your child may attend this really high-performing school but you must get them there.” If transportation becomes a barrier, is it really choice? In the same spirit, some districts require parents to submit multiple applications to as many locations with instructions buried 20 levels deep inside district websites, as seen in  Oakland, California. According to the Center for Reinventing Public Education, there is a national push for common enrollment which “allows families to fill out a single application with a single deadline for any and all schools they wish to apply to. It’s meant to cut down on the confusion and stress of choosing a school and to assure families that the application process will be fair.” Thanks, Nashville First, hats off to Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools! For years, the district has worked to offer families a menu of options, including providing transportation in some instances. With the introduction of charter schools more than 15 years ago, Nashville has increased the number of (though slowly) high-performing school options to families. While the choice application and selection process is not perfect, district leaders work hard to make the process as accessible and navigable as possible. But perhaps I’m most proud of the district’s big, hairy, audacious decision to hold the annual  School Choice Festival during this year’s National School Choice Week! Metro Schools—180 schools strong—includes charters, magnets, career academies, International Baccalaureate, open-enrollment schools (schools with extra capacity opened to anyone), great zoned schools (based on address) and more. I don’t know if the decision is rooted in fight or spite, but either way, parents win. To borrow a phrase from Metro Schools, yes, “excellence is everywhere.”

The REAL MVP of School Choice Week

Speaking of parents, without them there is no National School Choice Week. If there is an NSCW parade, the grand marshals should be parents. They are the ones who select the school that fits best, which is the first, best investment in their child’s educational lives. As a matter of fact, let’s just call it National Parent Educational Selection Week! Moms, dads, grandparents and other guardians: I salute you! The choice is yours.
An original version of this post appeared on Volume and Light as Parents Deserve the Praises During Week of Celebrating School Choice.

Vesia Wilson-Hawkins

Vesia Wilson-Hawkins is a former Metro Nashville Public Schools student, parent and staffer. She is a staunch advocate for better public school options, particularly for the Black community in her hometown. She doesn’t care if that school is run through a charter or is managed by the district, as long as it is providing a good option for the families who for too long have been underserved. With her background in the education sector, Vesia also keeps a watchful eye on Tennessee’s efforts to provide equitable education and accountability to low-income kids and students of color, especially as the state complies with the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Vesia blogs about all this and more at Volume and Light Nashville.

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