By Michael Moroney
Nationwide, it is no secret that our education system needs reform, but what direction to take and how to get there presents a formidable challenge. Countless studies have shown our children’s math and science skills are dangerously below average.
Schools continuously report failing test scores while our federal government pours unprecedented amounts of taxpayer money into a system that is completely ineffective. Test scores for fourth-grade New York students have remained stagnant since 2005, and in 2011, approximately 70 percent of students scored basic or below basic on standardized tests.
National School Choice Week, which ends Saturday, provides an excellent opportunity to explore solutions and revitalize our education system to provide promising options for our children. School choice programs such as charter schools and online learning have proven successful in several states. Research shows that students participating in school choice programs graduate at significantly higher rates than those attending public schools, and students and parents are more satisfied with their experience.
By using public funds already allocated for education and allowing parents the freedom to choose what they think is best for their child, every student can receive an education that is tailored to his or her needs. Whether public or private, charter or traditional, brick-and-mortar or online, let’s leave everything on the table.
Online learning meets a wide range of students’ educational needs and is unrestricted by geographic boundaries. New York offers district online learning programs and the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services provide advanced placement courses, credit recovery courses and a blending learning program. During the 2011 school year 442 students participated in the online courses through the Virtual High School Consortium.
While all students have the opportunity to benefit from this schooling option, children with disabilities have the specialized chance to learn at their own pace. Even students in neighborhoods that would never have access to AP courses or unique foreign languages are offered these options through online learning.
Offering parents the freedom to choose an educational program that best fits the learning needs of their child is essential to creating a prosperous learning environment. It’s time for us to take a hard look at our failing education policies and start offering options for students. School choice is a proven solution that is starting to make a difference in New York and has the potential to improve education across the nation. Let’s give our parents a choice and our children a chance.
Michael Moroney is the director of communications at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.