Wishing educators were recognized for expanding school choice too

Editor’s note: This is the ninth post in our school choice wish series. See the rest of the line-up here.

by Gary Beckner

Gary Beckner
Gary Beckner

School choice policies are making daily headlines across the country. While we often highlight the successes of individual schools and students, teachers are largely left out of the broader choice conversation. This holiday season, it’s my wish that educators are recognized as essential contributors to this important movement in American education.

The fact is every educational setting is a choice. District schools, private and parochial schools, public charter schools, and virtual schools – these are all choices in action. As we adapt to a dramatically changing education landscape, educators everywhere are embracing these new teaching environments, with tens of thousands of teachers educating millions of students nationwide.school choice wish 2014 logo

This new renaissance in education is both shaking up our classrooms and fundamentally altering the face of the teaching profession. Dedicated, professional teachers should be given credit for their role in supporting and participating in choice settings. In sharing their talents in these new and exciting education environments, teachers are helping to create a brighter future for students who need personalized options.

Educators on the front lines know a one-size-fits-all system does little to address the unique needs of all our students. Students learn differently, just as teachers have their own strengths and weaknesses. In adapting to system of choice, professional educators are realizing these advances are not only meeting needs for students, but also providing professional opportunity.

While some try to promulgate a myth that teachers are not in favor of choice policies, thousands of teachers support this new direction and are teaching in choice schools every day. According to Association of American Educators (AAE) membership surveys, teachers are warming to these ideas.

Specifically, 69 percent of survey respondents support the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) that awards need-based annual scholarships to eligible District children. The program has received notable bipartisan support in Congress and is considered one of the most prominent choice systems in the country. There is an understanding amongst educators that options for students are beneficial and that educators, in turn, can also reap rewards.

Take AAE Member Amy Rosno for instance.

A virtual school teacher in Wisconsin, Amy teaches online from the convenience of her home office. She has the flexibility she needs as a busy mom while still maintaining the ability teach full-time through the use of today’s technology. While personal circumstances may have changed her priorities, teachers like Amy are finding they are not only able to continue their careers, but develop skills in ways they never could have imagined.

Our members understand choices can provide enormous opportunity for the next generation of educators —flexibility, autonomy, creativity, and personal accountability.  Why shouldn’t a modern educator have the ability to select a teaching position in a setting that reflects their values and vision for education? These policies will advance the profession in ways we could only dream of just a generation ago.

Our focus should be on matching education professionals with positions that best use their talents, and recognizing educators for their contributions to this growing movement. My #schoolchoiceWISH is for teachers to be recognized as true trailblazers in 2015!

Gary Beckner is the founder and executive director of the Association of American Educators. 

Coming Friday: Jeff Bergosh, a member of the Escambia County (Fla.) School Board.