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School Choice Kickoff in Phoenix; Choice Policy and Pop Stars

By Molly Thelosen, National Grants Manager

7,000 ecstatic students, flash dancers and the Jonas Brothers kicked off National School Week (NSCW) in Phoenix last weekend. In typical NSCW style, the event transformed a contentious policy issue into a pop concert to engage people in an important conversation about choice. Concurrently, student testimonials, remarks from education leaders, and a sea of iconic yellow scarves helped make school choice the focal point.

Instead of advocating for any specific policy, NSCW celebrates how choice in education can enhance achievement and provide hope, especially for the most disadvantaged students. Many children across the country are forced to attend poor performing schools due to the lack of options in their communities. Zip codes should not determine a child’s success - such a system fails too many students.

NSCW is a way to reach out to families to let them know there are options, and if options don’t exist in their communities, they need to fight for them. NSCW does an exceptional job of speaking directly to these families. I brought my middle-school aged cousins to the concert and as the Jonas Brothers took the stage they rushed up front with thousands of others. Reminiscent of my days screaming for the Backstreet Boys, I appreciated how seamlessly NSCW integrated a pop concert into education reform (a little bit of something for everyone). Walking out of the arena, I overhead my youngest cousin talking with her friends about all their different options for high school. The girls definitely heard the Jonas Brothers, but held onto the school choice message as well.

Over the course of this week 3,500 diverse NSCW events are being held across the country, placing school choice in the spotlight. It is impossible to miss the bright yellow scarves and the commission they carry. We must work to ensure all students have exceptional education options. NSCW is a celebratory reminder of the role school choice plays in advancing meaningful education reform.

See a few more pictures from the event here.

Molly joined the DFER team after working in a variety of education contexts, spanning from policy to practice. Initially coaching a summer Cheer/English camp in Nogales, Mexico, Molly developed an interest in the transformative power of education. Teaching in Bogota, she continued to learn about the challenge of providing a quality education for kids. An interest in improving education outcomes at a system level inspired her study of policy at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. While studying, she worked on a project developing an index to measure state-level primary school quality in Mexico's public schools. Joining DFER, Molly looks forward to working with a strong team of highly effective reformers.