June 18, 2012 • Huddle Up

Allowing Students High School Choice The Right Move

When we were high school students, we were given a considerable amount of choices regarding our education and extracurricular activities—Spanish or French, basketball or football, etc. One option most of us were never given was to choose a different school all together.

School Choice, allowing high school students to attend an institution outside of their district, is becoming more common across the nation, as is the controversy accompanying it. The idea is to give families more options in ensuring their child receives a quality education, but many argue it’s sucking the life out of their communities.

While the focus for School Choice was mostly educational, many student-athletes are taking advantage of the policy to sign-up with more successful sports programs. Some schools also argue this opens the door for illegal recruiting, giving coaches a loophole to identify and pursue the area’s best athletes. In Michigan, where “Schools of Choice” was instituted in 1996, some schools report significant decreases in enrollment, and coaches say the playing field is not nearly as level as it used to be.

It’s a fair argument, but in the grand scheme of things letting students choose their school is the right move. One thing the whiners at the weaker schools have to understand is this is all about giving students more opportunities. So when they stand up and declare they’re not winning as much as they used to, who cares? Since when did the primary goal of high school athletics become more about winning and less about teaching student-athletes to value competition and respect one another? If a teenager sees better opportunities with another school, there is absolutely no reason we should prevent him or her from pursuing a better education. And whether it’s in the classroom or the playing field, education is the main concept.

The logical step to take in the face of School Choice is making a change. If your school is so unappealing that students are fleeing to other districts, that should motivate you to make improvements and develop a more appealing design that’s going to bring those students back. Complaining about it only makes you look worse.

It’s actually more reasonable to argue that absence of School Choice can result in complacency, leading to schools that care little about their academic or athletic standing because they’re going to draw the same number of students regardless. If you want to get the best students, earn it. Improve your school and make changes that keep them coming back.

I don’t argue that many students out there choose a school for the wrong reasons—friends, athletics, etc. But that’s a microscopic flaw in an outstanding model. When children reach high school, it’s time for them to start making difficult decisions and weighing their options to determine what ultimately will better their futures. Some will choose wisely and others won’t, but it’s a learning experience. And remember, learning is what this is all about.

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