By Kisa Fields
National School Choice Week comes to an end tomorrow. It was an incredible celebration to raise awareness of all types of educational options for children and families. In Wisconsin, options such as public charter, magnet, private, online, and home schools are added to traditional public schools to serve the needs of students, teachers and communities in our great state. Though school choice in Wisconsin is usually discussed in the context of providing families with educational options, the benefit school choice offers teachers is sometimes overlooked.
The growth of school choice has meant positive advancement for the teaching profession. Today’s teachers are empowered to make decisions regarding when, where and how they teach students while incorporating tools, concepts and ideas that stimulate learning. Now, more than ever, the roles of teachers are evolving.
Teachers should understand that school choice brings more options for both students and for teachers in the years to come. These additions offer an enormous opportunity for the next generation of educators: flexibility, autonomy, control, creativity and professional advancement.
As an advocate for teachers here in Wisconsin and as a teacher in training myself, I see firsthand the benefits of educational options for teachers and students. Charter school teachers in Milwaukee are seeing their students make huge gains. And, choice schools are offering customized options to students and teachers. Moreover, many of our district schools are offering innovative online options. We have a lot to be proud of in Wisconsin.
Understanding the benefits of choice and recognizing that all of these options make our state stronger is truly the key to public support. Some try to promulgate a myth that teachers are not in favor of choice policies that allow unique educational opportunities, yet thousands of teachers across the United States support this new direction and are teaching in choice schools every day.
According to membership surveys by the Association of American Educators, Wisconsin’s non-union teacher organization, teachers are onboard with many policies that offer options to all stakeholders. Specifically, 79 percent of survey respondents support public charter schools and the flexibility they offer teachers and students. Another 59 percent of teachers expressed support for Wisconsin’s Parental Choice Program.
As we move on from National School Choice Week, let us continue to celebrate all educators and their professional career choices here in Wisconsin. Let’s also look ahead and embrace the possibilities that tomorrow’s education can provide. Teachers have always helped shape the future and will continue to do so no matter where they teach.
Mrs. Kisa Fields is the regional director for the Association of American Educators in Wisconsin.