Unfortunately, far too many families have not been well served by our current system, which has far too many students unprepared for college or careers despite unprecedented spending levels. If we expect future results to improve, we have to build a better foundation now.
For too long, the system we rely on to educate our children has largely excluded parental choice and what’s best for students in favor of special interests and an outmoded delivery model. We must prioritize offering families more high-quality educational options that represent the best fit for their children’s specific educational needs instead of promoting a system that’s based on geography and ability to pay.
When all parents’ educational choices matter, the benefits extend to every child, and not just to those students attending schools of choice. In communities where traditional district schools must compete for students and teachers, the resulting improvements in opportunities for all children have been striking.
The educational benefits of school choice in America have been well documented. Random-assignment studies have continued to show improved student achievement by voucher recipients in cities including Milwaukee, the District of Columbia and New York City. And the most methodologically rigorous research on charter school achievement demonstrates these innovative schools’ effectiveness at closing gaps in test scores and graduation rates, especially for our most underserved children.
But we also know families choose schools for so much more than test scores. In fact, when asked, parents continue to list providing a safe environment to learn as among their highest priorities for their children’s schools.
Additionally, research has shown that civic values are taught more effectively in private schools in the United States than most public ones. And the growth of charter and nonpublic schools that emphasize values education as integral components of their school missions adds important new options to bolster the teaching of important American principles.
At the end of the day, we must build an education system that honors such preferences and give families the ability to choose the best schools for their own children.
Evidence also shows us that details matter when it comes to choice programs. As Nevada moves forward with new and expanded policies to strengthen quality choice opportunities, getting the policy details right will be essential to maximize the benefits — both for those families exercising new choices as well as for longer-term outcomes for those remaining in traditional public school systems.
We’ll need new tools, new strategies and, more than anything, a new outlook on how we can work together to accomplish our shared vision of greater educational freedom.
That process starts from the premise that supporting all families with personalized, meaningful choice opportunities allows children to return to their rightful place at the center of our American education system.