EdOptions Prepares to Make Falls Church Home

Slated to set up his Virginia headquarters in the City of Falls Church by 2009, Thomas Sawner, Chief Officer of Educational Options, Inc., best known as EdOptions, looks forward to building “a long relationship” with the Falls Church community.

Founded in 1997 and under Sawner’s helm since 2003, EdOptions is an accredited, web-based provider of educational resources for school systems across the nation. Its current base of operations for the past four years is in Arlington.

Beginning two years ago, however, EdOptions sought to expand its office space. Sawner could not find an ideal building in Arlington, and was told by his friend and Arlington County’s new Circuit Court Clerk, Paul Ferguson, that “I really need to consider Falls Church,” Sawner said.

The initial proposition caught him off-guard. “Falls Church is not what I think of as a haven for corporate offices,” Sawner told the News-Press.827edoptions.jpg

After researching the area and several letters of intent to buy properties, he was convinced the City provided a “significant cost advantage” to Arlington, with better rent rates and available commercial space. Sawner wanted an entire building for the company’s use.

Initial struggles with the Falls Church City Council to approve new zoning, which it did last month, led to doubt for EdOptions’ relocation and for Sawner, who “quite frankly didn’t want to be in the middle of a construction project for three years.”

When the City reshifted their plans, he explained, and reached a compromise for his property at 360 S. Washington St., EdOptions finalized its move.

Following the move, Sawner expects company staff to grow, particularly in the curriculum development department for math and science.

Ultimately, he is satisfied with the locale change, noting Falls Church’s access to metro access, as well as no significant effect on his employees’ commute.

Sawner hopes that the move will be as beneficial to the City as the company has been to its clientele.

Of the latter, he is confident that EdOptions is “a very positive influence on the long-term solution in education.”

Faced with rising dropout rates and incredible duress from state education departments, public schools are finding they have no other way to deal with the demands on modern education.

Sawner explained EdOptions aims to revolutionize education “within the existing paradigm of the public school,” changing how educators tackle the issues of No Child Left Behind and the surge in state and national testing requirements.

In his opinion, teachers must “remain the most important component in the classroom,” while EdOptions relieves them of tedious conflicts between the curriculum and student needs.

To do so, the company innovated a novel approach to providing educational resources. Using a team of educators to draft nationally-accredited curriculum for grades 6-12, it delivers comprehensive and adaptable programs to schools nationwide via the Internet.

There are several options for schools, each meeting a different need across the academic spectrum. Some are geared toward mainstream students and others for at-risk students, such as English as a Second Language students. For example, the “Adaptive Assessment Mode” empowers students struggling with certain material to focus on trouble spots rather than relearning the entire curriculum, a potentially major relief to funding concerns for remedial and summer school programs.

The company’s programs also enable teachers access to online textbooks and already programmed lesson plans and dynamically-created tests.

Following several hours of on-location training with a personal trainer and hands-on activities, teachers can create a hybrid class environment, providing students who need extra help and practice the ability to use EdOptions’ services, while teachers can manage other activities in the classroom.

Sawner also noted the web-based programs’ ease of use for teachers and students, with none of the problems of downloadable interfaces that require costly updates.

In addition, EdOptions’ nature as an active service provider allows its programs to reflect changing learning standards across the 49 states that mandate them. “Technology’s importance in the information age is no misnomer,” Sawner said.

“What we’re teaching in classrooms is constantly changing. Millions of dollars are spent on ordering new books, but with EdOptions, updating content with XML code is as easy as dealing with Microsoft Word documents.”

The past decade marks strong progress for EdOptions, reflected by its rapid growth in participating students: 200,000 nationwide this year alone from 6,000 in 1997. Likewise, its annual subscriptions stand at a 99 percent renewal rate, with 60 percent of schools expanding their programs yearly.