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#AskExcelinEd: Why is School Choice Good for Teachers?

• Victoria Bell

In our final #AskExcelinEd celebrating National School Choice Week, Policy Analyst for Education Opportunity Tori Bell discusses how in an education market that offers robust choice and varied school options, teachers can better develop, own and pursue their preferred pedagogies.

During National School Choice Week, communities across the nation are celebrating and advocating for educational opportunity. Many of these gatherings focus on how school choice benefits students and parents. While students and parents are two of the most important parts of education—and should always have a prominent voice in any reforms that take place—another group is often left out of this important conversation: teachers.

As part of my undergraduate course work, I shadowed a teacher daily for several weeks. One of the first questions I asked her was, “What is one thing you would change about your job?” Her response was that she’d like to have more freedom to teach because that’s why she went into the profession in the first place. She felt like her hands were tied half of the time and she wasn’t actually doing what she loved on a daily basis.

It’s been my experience that many teachers feel this way and believe they don’t have the autonomy or time to do the part of their job they love most – teaching. School choice can help with that!

In a choice environment that offers robust and varied school options, teachers gain more autonomy to pick and choose schools that share their cultures, values, focus and preferred methods of teaching. Much like a parent choosing the best educational fit for their child – a teacher can choose the best fit for their expertise and teaching style. Under these circumstances, I believe teachers can be more creative and entrepreneurial in their teaching methods and, consequently, happier doing their job.

Yet research shows that most teachers are deeply skeptical of school choice. In fact, Education Week’s nationwide survey last fall found the majority of teachers oppose the three choice programs they were asked about.

From my perspective, this doesn’t add up. Choice can benefit teachers as well as provide greater opportunities for teachers to serve their students. Like parents, teachers are in a key position to offer insights for meeting the individual educational needs of their students. This may include suggesting alternatives via school choice. If teachers remain skeptical and in opposition to choice, they will overlook or avoid these alternative options.

In our public dialogue, it is imperative to demonstrate how school choice can benefit students, parents and teachers to reverse this perception.

Here are two quotes and pieces that do just that:

“Decentralization through expanded choice is the best remedy, and not just for students…. Choice gives [teachers] the opportunity to find or create schools that play to their strengths and interests.” Doug Tuthill, President of Step Up For Students, in Education Week Commentary

About the author

Victoria Bell

Tori Bell is the Associate Policy Director for Education Opportunity at ExcelinEd, where she works with state leaders to build and implement supportive education opportunity policies. Prior to joining ExcelinEd, Tori worked for a Member of Congress and managed his education policy portfolio. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Washington and Lee University, where she also minored in Education Policy and Poverty and Human Capability Studies. Tori currently resides in Washington, D.C.