Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education

Motivated by Choice?

By Kevin Bushweller — December 04, 2006 2 min read

As a reporter and editor, I have always experienced school choice in a rather abstract way, writing about it as an outsider with no stake in the outcome. To be sure, that helped me maintain my objectivity about a topic that can be very divisive and controversial.

But now, I am living it up close and personal, as my oldest son struggles to decide where he will attend high school.

In our community, public high school students can choose to attend public high schools other than their assigned one. The program--which offers specialty academic programs in fine arts, biotechnology, and other areas--aims to increase student motivation by tapping into teenagers’ academic interests. Students who want to go somewhere other than their assigned school must apply for acceptance.

A few years ago, I wrote a piece about how this program works and the effect it has had on the teenagers and parents in my neighborhood. (See “Different Directions.”) At the time, I was still years away from having to step into the role of helping my son decide what high school would fit his interests, and our family’s logistical needs, best.

But now he is in eighth grade and the decision is upon him and us.

I have always believed in the power of options. They can be your ticket out of bad situations and provide you with opportunities to pursue your passions. Educational trends in this country appear to support such options. The share of enrollment for public schools of choice grew from 11 percent to 15 percent of all students in grades 1-12 from 1993 to 2003, according to “Trends in the Use of School Choice: 1993-2003,” a report recently released by the National Center for Education Statistics. Those schools include public charter schools, magnet schools, and other types of options both within districts and in nearby districts.

But can you give a teenager too many options? Maybe.

My son has watched several of his neighborhood friends who are a year older choose to attend a school other than their assigned school, and the school they chose is a significant distance from our community. Some of his other 8th grade friends plan to attend their assigned school.

My son’s interests, however, are leading him toward a third option, a high school that is nearby but is not his assigned high school.

At first thought, you’d think he’d be happy about all these choices. It sure seems like a cool idea to me, someone who never had such an array of choices.

Not so. Time and again, he has told me he wished the county simply made kids go to the school they were assigned to attend. That way, all his neighborhood friends would go there and he wouldn’t have to decide, in eighth grade, whether he wants to pursue a fine arts specialty or a biotechnology specialty, whether he wants to follow his friends to the school that is far from our neighborhood, attend his assigned school, or chart an entirely different path.

For those of us who are particularly interested in student motivation issues, this public school choice program is a fascinating experiment to watch. Now, I’ll get a chance to see, up close and personal, whether all this choice really leads to increased student motivation.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.

Events

Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Student Well-Being Online Summit Keeping Students and Teachers Motivated and Engaged
Join experts to learn how to address teacher morale, identify students with low engagement, and share what is working in remote learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Assistant Director of Technical Solutions
Working from home
EdGems Math LLC

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read