March 26, 2022 - 9:00 pm
Author Catherine Pulsifer once said, “Life presents many choices; the choices we make determine our future.”
In my more than 15 years as superintendent at The Delta Academy, I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of choice in education. This includes everything from choice provided to students by teachers in the classroom, to education models and school choice.
Student choice is one of the most engaging strategies a teacher can use in the classroom. A study of eighth graders published by the Journal of Literary Research revealed that when students shifted from assigned to choice reading, they were more engaged collectively and individually, read more, had more positive peer relationships, better self-regulation and performed better on tests. All of these positive changes took place simply because the teachers abandoned assigned readings and instead allowed their eighth graders to choose from a collection of young adult fiction that was personally meaningful to them.
This does not mean that rules and boundaries are not necessary elements to ensure a productive learning environment — they are. However, by offering students choices, we help them connect to the curriculum as well as their own identities and passions.
No two students are the same by way of who they are as individuals, as well as how they learn. So while the conventional in-classroom learning with bell schedules and testing regimens does work beautifully for some, it can be a hindrance for others. At my school, we have just as many students who excel with online or hybrid learning as those who do in the traditional classroom setting. By providing options to online students — such as Zooming in to live classes alongside their peers in the physical classroom, attending after-school activities and meeting with teachers multiple times a week in-person or virtually — time and time again I’ve seen success.
There is no right or wrong way to learn, just differences in how we learn. Embracing that fact and providing a variety of learning models for students and their parents to choose from is vital. In doing so, decisions can be made based on their unique and individual needs, helping them to select the type of environment that will allow them to thrive.
Student success is dependent on many factors. So while providing choice in the learning environment as well as educational models is incredibly important, they will be wholly ineffective if the student doesn’t feel as if the school itself is a good fit.
According to the nonprofit advocacy group All4Ed, for students to learn they must feel safe, engaged, connected and supported in their classrooms and schools. This underscores the importance of school choice. Students and their families must be able to choose the schools or services that best fit their needs, whether that’s a public, charter, home or private school, or another learning environment that is best suited to serve them.
It all comes down to empowering students, and their parents, through choice. In doing so, we are better preparing young minds for success and helping ensure a brighter future.
Kyle Konold is superintendent of The Delta Academy in North Las Vegas.