#SchoolChoice…A Personal Story

April 8, 2016

This past week, Palmetto Promise was privileged to have Audra Knight, a student at River Bluff High School, visit the office for a few days. Her main interest? School Choice, of course!

At the end of her time, we asked her to explain why she felt school choice is important to South Carolina – and she didn’t disappoint! Here’s what she had to say:

South Carolina currently has amazing opportunities for education for children in some districts, but these amazing opportunities tend to depend on where students are zoned. This is a prime reason that the issue of school choice is so important within our state right now.

For example, Lexington School District One has implemented a system of Centers for Advanced Study, allowing students within the district to spend half of their day at a different school, taking specialized courses in fields such as healthcare, photography, law, agriculture, STEM, and international business.

The downside to this is that kids from close-by districts cannot participate in these centers because of school zoning. This issue hits particularly close to home for me because I am a student in River Bluff High School’s Center for Law and Global Policy development. Splitting my schedule between Lexington High School and River Bluff High School has given me an interest in the opportunities that school choice can bring to enhance the learning experience. Even though I have the chance to spend half of my day taking unique courses that aren’t offered anywhere else, I am always reminded of students that aren’t as lucky.

There is a boy who attends Brookland-Cayce High School, about 20 minutes away, which is a part of Lexington School District Two. He aspires to enter the field of law, but cannot take classes that relate to the field because his school doesn’t offer them. And although my school is a short drive away from his, district lines separate him and prevent him from receiving the choice that he deserves.

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The reality is that every student in South Carolina deserves a chance to customize the way they learn.

This story goes to show that this issue affects young people within the state directly by limiting their chances to make learning personal and applicable to their interests. But the solution of school choice, in the many forms it takes, will help students reach their full potential. When students aren’t interested in what they’re learning, or they aren’t learning in a way that suits them personally, it makes the entire process less effective.

Why is it that we pick the college we plan to attend based on what we think is best for us, but we aren’t given this same choice in our most formative years? School choice for younger students allows education to be a collaborative process.

When schools, teachers, parents, and students communicate, new levels of achievement can be met. Parents and their kids often are not even aware of the possibilities in learning they could have. South Carolina is not giving its students the chance to reach their full potential if it is limiting the choice students have in learning.

Everyone has special needs and interests, which should be supported by their schools. A one-size-fits-all system cannot produce the results that our state should reach for. However, a system with options could lift our state up in the future.

If South Carolina wants to improve learning, it starts with allowing students a choice.

– Audra Knight, Senior at River Bluff High School