National School Choice Week chugs into 4th year with 5,500 events, train tour

In just four short years, National School Choice Week has mushroomed nationwide from 150 events in 2010 to 5,500 at last count this year, with much of the growth attributed to a positive message and a powerful way of delivering it.

national-school-choice-week-logo1“We don’t want to tell anyone that one choice is better than another one,’’ Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, told redefinED recently. Instead, “we’re celebrating effective education options for kids.’’

From traditional schools to magnet programs, charter and private schools, faith-based education, online learning and homeschooling – it’s all good as long as parents get to choose what’s best for their child, he said.

The 2014 celebration officially kicks off Jan. 26, but a 14-city train and motor coach tour begins in Newark on Jan. 22 and ends, 3,800 miles later, in San Francisco. The “whistle-stop’’ tour is modeled after historic tours in American history that brought attention to issues of national concern, such as women’s rights and civil rights.

It’s all part of a plan to “show America that there are so many choices out there,’’ said Campanella, who listed Florida, Indiana, Louisiana and Ohio among the states with good school choice track records. But, he added, “I think every state has room for growth.’’

Andrew Campanella
Andrew Campanella

Parents, students and teachers will share their stories at tour stops and during independent events organized and paid for by school districts, private school organizations, grassroots groups and individuals. Some events will be as elaborate as a panel discussion on the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education in Coral Springs, Fla., and as simple as a showing of a school choice film in someone’s living room, Campanella said.

National School Choice Week also is an opportunity for education providers to focus not on competing with one another, but on their shared goal: to help children learn.

“I see a natural tension between anyone who is going to compete,’’ Campanella said. “But my hope is that they can come together on the basics.’’

A student of traditional public schools “my whole life,’’ and the son of a district school teacher, Campanella said he bristles when he hears people characterize school choice as being at odds with public education.

“People are really talking down the traditional system,’’ he said. “They need to have more confidence in their traditional public schools.’’


  1. I feel like you are changing the narrative again, First vouchers and charters were about getting kids out of failing public schools but when it turned out the public schools were doing better than vouchers and charters, you changed the narrative to one that emphasized competition. The reasoning was that competition would make everybody better. Well charters and vouchers as a group didn’t get that memo and quite often the only thing hey made better were the bank accounts of charter school operators.

    Now they have changed the narrative once again calling for a Kumbaya moment as both charters and private schools that take vouchers and public schools let their differences go, hold hands and come together to address what’s best for children. Gone are the failing public school and competition narratives.

    So which is it?

    • Patrick R. Gibbons

      Hi Chris,

      A little historical background on the school choice movement: Vouchers were originally proposed as a universal plan for all children regardless of income levels or the quality of their assigned public school. That was backed down to low-income vouchers (or special needs) or low-income vouchers for students in low performing schools at the behest of school choice opponents. Supporters accepted the restrictions to get something passed into law, while opponents hoped the restrictions would lead to failure of the program.

      On the results. Not one single high quality study shows public school students outperforming school choice students. Lower quality studies do, but those studies do not control for factors of race or income. All but one of the random assignment studies (where students are randomly assigned a voucher) show at least one subgroup of voucher students outperforming the control group. Again, none show the control group outperforming the voucher treatment group. Again, take note, these results were found with all the restrictions opponents hoped would sink the program (ex: providing half the funding to educate low-income kids who were previously enrolled in low-performing schools). This is even more impressive when you realize the voucher programs are lifting the student achievement of students who remain behind in public schools as well.

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