School Choice and its Relation to Post-Secondary Success

There exists a myth that “college isn’t for everyone.” I would argue that college is a necessity in today’s workforce. College is for everyone. However, everycollege is not for everyone. It is up to the individual to find that school that meets their specific needs. Why college? It has a direct impact on a person’s freedom—economic and physical. We all know the statistics that say those with degrees make more than $1million over a lifetime than those without. We also are well aware of the growing school to prison pipeline where third grade reading scores are being used in an algorithm to project future prison capacity needs. A student of color’s education is a matter of survival. Understand our students are in an uphill battle, as the Indiana on-time college graduation rate for African Americans is a pitiful 11% (Indiana Commission for Higher Education). College graduation is a process and not a happening. It is a process that begins long before a student steps foot on campus. Once a student hits campus (especially in Indiana), they are met with challenges that range from the financial burden, to the social obstacles, and most importantly a lack of preparation for the academic rigor. So, how do we get them ready now? Such a complex problem has so many potential solutions, but the simplest of them is to begin selecting schools with high expectations, strong rigor, and that are goal-oriented. Once upon a time, the best education was available only to those who lived in the affluent neighborhoods with access to a well-funded and high-performing school that comes with it. In my humble opinion, in theory, school choice begins to even the playing field by allowing parents a higher level of ownership in the educational process. No matter the social-economic standing, parents have the opportunity to seek and find the school that best fits their respective students’ needs. Parents can begin laying the groundwork for their students’ future (post-secondary education and career) by connecting them to a school (public, private or charter—good, bad, ugly, and promising) that has experience, is high-performing, has classrooms that work, and is helping students of color close the achievement gap.

Robert L. Marshall, Jr.

Robert. L Marshall, Jr. is the Senior Director of Programs for the Center for Leadership Development in Indianapolis, IN. Mr. Marshall was a participant in EdFit’s School Board Governance Seminar.