Think of all the choices we must make in life--where to eat, where to live, where to work, what car we want, what clothes to wear, and what college we want to attend, just to name a few.
All of these choices are individual wants of the person, and they make those choices based on many things. It could be the need to drive a truck for work, so they have to buy a truck. It could be they need to eat gluten-free meals, so they have to pick a restaurant that serves gluten-free food. It could be that they enjoy working with their hands, and the job that they want is a 20-minute drive from the community where they can afford to live.
It all comes down to personal choices to fulfill the needs and wants to make them a better person.
One other area that over the years has become increasingly available is educational choice, also known as school choice. With school options becoming more and more digitally supported and accessible, and even some becoming global, the opportunity for educational choice has grown. This has led to an increase in families making choices based on their children's personalized educational needs.
When you think about Arkansas and the many different dynamics of our state, you can see why educational choice has become more widespread. What if you are a family that owns a farm but one of your students wants to be involved in a program that offers television journalism, and your rural district just doesn't offer that? Shouldn't that student have that choice? What if a student lives in one of the Big 4 districts in Northwest Arkansas, but prefers a smaller class size or a school with less student population; should that family be able to choose what is best for that student? Should students be forced to give up 12 years of their life in a place that doesn't fit their needs or wants?
Some districts are even offering educational choices within their own districts. Take the Springdale School District: With the recent development of the Springdale School of Innovation, it now offers in-district school choice. This is a way for public schools to offer great benefits of educational choice. Recently, Fayetteville School District started its Virtual Academy, which offers educational choice for students around Northwest Arkansas in the form of online education. Another regional example is the Career Academy of Siloam Springs, a charter school that offers vocational learning opportunities to students in Benton County.
These are three great examples of educational choice, and all three were developed by local public schools.
At the end of the day, educational choice works if our goal is to meet the individual needs of all students. Whether it is public, charter, private, or homeschooling, each family has and deserves the choice to provide for the educational needs of their children and to meet the needs of their family.
As our schools become more global, we will see more educational options in many districts across Arkansas and the nation. We have to remember the goal is to provide the most appropriate personal educational experience for all students, and educational choice makes this possible.
John Unger of Fayetteville is the West Fork Middle School principal for grades 5-8. He holds an education specialist bachelor's degree from Arkansas State University, and a master's in education degree from LSU-Shreveport.
Editorial on 12/23/2019
Print Headline: All about choice