Learn about School Choice in this educational glossary entry.
School choice is a term used to describe the various programs and policies that allow parents to choose the school their child attends, rather than being assigned to a specific school based on their residential address. This concept has gained popularity in recent years as a way to increase competition and improve the quality of education by giving families more options and flexibility in selecting a school that best meets their child's needs.
One of the most well-known forms of school choice is the school voucher program. Vouchers are publicly funded scholarships that allow students to use public money to attend a private school of their choice. Proponents argue that vouchers provide low-income families with access to high-quality education options that they may not otherwise be able to afford. Critics, however, raise concerns about the use of public funds to support private schools and the potential for vouchers to divert resources away from public schools.
Another popular form of school choice is charter schools. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that operate independently of the traditional public school system. They are given more flexibility in terms of curriculum, hiring practices, and budget management in exchange for meeting specific performance goals outlined in their charter. Charter schools are often seen as a way to promote innovation and provide families with alternative educational options. However, critics argue that charter schools can exacerbate educational inequities by siphoning resources away from traditional public schools.
Magnet schools are another type of school choice program that offer specialized programs or curricula to attract students from diverse backgrounds. These schools often focus on specific areas such as the arts, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), or language immersion. Magnet schools are designed to promote diversity and provide students with unique educational opportunities that may not be available in their local public schools.
While not always considered a traditional form of school choice, homeschooling is another option that allows parents to take control of their child's education. Homeschooling involves parents providing education to their children at home rather than sending them to a traditional school. Homeschooling can be a way for families to customize their child's education and provide a more individualized learning experience. However, homeschooling also raises concerns about the quality of education and socialization opportunities for students.
Open enrollment policies allow students to attend any public school within their district or even in neighboring districts. This gives families more flexibility in choosing a school based on factors such as academic programs, extracurricular activities, or location. Open enrollment can help promote diversity and equity by allowing students to attend schools outside of their assigned neighborhood school.
When considering school choice options, there are several factors that parents should take into account:
School choice offers families the opportunity to select the best educational environment for their children based on their individual needs and preferences. By providing a range of options, school choice programs aim to empower parents and students to make informed decisions about their education. While school choice has the potential to improve educational outcomes and promote innovation, it is important to carefully consider the implications and trade-offs of each option to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education.