Despite mid-70s temps in Arizona, we’ve broken out the yellow scarves in support of National School Choice Week! More than 1,000 events are taking place around the state to celebrate all we have achieved in advancing quality educational choices for students.

I have participated in and planned National School Choice Week events for several years now. This year as newly installed A for Arizona Executive Director, I’m reflecting in a new way on what school choice means for students, families, teachers, and leaders in low-income, high performing schools.

Generally speaking, more options for students and families are a good thing.

When excellent schools tailor their curriculum to capture the passions, interests, talents, culture, and special needs of their students, we see a pipeline of future workers take shape and students who are prepared to choose what comes next.

For many kids in A for Arizona schools, however, choice is about so much more than expressing preference in educational style. It’s about having the opportunity to attend an exceptional school and not be sentenced to a mediocre or failing one. To have a seat in a high quality classroom with a teacher who is fiercely committed to the belief that every student can achieve. Certainly every student deserves that opportunity.

When a high quality school opens in an area where previously students only had access to attend a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ ranked school, we see a child’s future take on a whole new set of possibilities. We see families changed and communities transformed. That type of individual and community transformation is what propels our work and motivates the best teachers and principals. While school choice is impactful for many reasons, we see its core value every day in the dedication of our ‘A’ and ‘On-the-Way to ‘A’’ school leaders and the progress of their students.

Sure, limiting children to geographic boundaries and set schools would simplify the system, but it wouldn’t serve our kids well.

Fortunately Arizona has never been about preserving the status quo—and especially not when it comes to our kids.

Passionate school leaders who see an opportunity to serve a specific student population, and parents who are demanding education solutions that best fit their kids continue to drive school choice in Arizona.

The environment of choice we have built up over several decades has directly contributed to the educational progress we are seeing in students today. Our kids are making gains at a faster rate than ever before, and far above their peers across the country. People may not always understand what has been dubbed our “Wild West” approach to education in Arizona, but it is working. I wouldn’t trade the progress we are seeing in Arizona for any other states’.

Today as I step out into the sunshine in my yellow scarf I’ll be thinking of all the A for Arizona school leaders, teachers, parents, and students who benefit and who persevere because of the school choices that exist in Arizona.