Wednesday, June 29, 2011

School choice in Denver

Denver Public Schools is getting ready to develop a new public school choice plan, with the help of IIPSC (The Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice), the nonprofit founded by Neil Dorosin after he helped implement New York City's high school choice plan. The plan is that Neil will again be assisted by the same team of economists. An innovative element of the plan is that both public and charter schools will participate in the same school choice process.

Here's a story in Colorado Education News, by Charlie Brennan: Streamlined DPS enrollment in works

"Denver Public Schools is planning to streamline its enrollment system and will ask – but not require – all students to choose their schools beginning as soon as fall 2012.

"Under the proposed plan, families for the first time would be able to use one form to apply to traditional DPS schools, magnets or charter schools, and all applications would be on the same deadline.

"Families not wishing to participate would be assigned to their neighborhood school by default, as always. District officials say people exercising choice should find this new system easier to navigate.

"Superintendent Tom Boasberg said the change is really simply one of “mechanics.”

“For those families who do exercise choice, it will be a system that is more equitable, more efficient and more transparent,” Boasberg said.
"District officials say the plan’s main purpose is to streamline and unify the district’s current patchwork and often confusing systems of school choice. During the 2010-11 school year, 53 percent of DPS students attended schools outside their assigned attendance area. This includes charter schools.

"Dorosin said he knows no other major urban district that uses one application form for district schools and charter schools.

"The proposal would continue guaranteed enrollment in neighborhood schools as well as priority status for those with siblings already attending a school.

"Board member Mary Seawell has met with Dorosin and said she supports the change, if it will put all district families on a level playing field when choosing schools.

“To me, it is really about, is our system working and is it fair? Is there equity for all kids? And I’ve learned that it isn’t fair, and we need to be fair,” she said.
"In the 2004 New York system Dorosin helped design, eighth-graders were asked to rank up to 12 schools in order of preference, while schools ranked applicants without seeing how those students ranked the schools. A computer then compared rankings, using an algorithm originally created to match medical residents with hospitals.

"New York and Boston did not include its charter schools in the choice process as Denver will. New York implemented the plan only for high school students. Denver will do it systemwide, as has Boston. New York did away with wait-lists, Denver will not.

"For 2010-11 in New York, of 78,747 students who applied, the computer placed 83 percent of the students with one of their top five choices. Another 7 percent matched to schools further down their preference lists.

"However, roughly 10 percent of the city’s eighth-graders were matched with none of their listed choices.

“That just means they didn’t get matched in the first round,” said New York City Department of Education spokesman Matt Mittenthal. “We’re currently in a supplementary round, so the process is not by any means over. There’s always a period for appeals but after the supplementary round, they are essentially given one assignment.”

"Mittenthal added there are “hundreds of appeals every year.”

"Dorosin said technical aspects of the Denver program are still under development. Using a formula to match students to schools prevents savvy parents from gaming the system at the expense of less sophisticated families, he said.

"While Dorosin said the New York and Boston models hold lessons for Denver, DPS spokesman Vaughn underscored a fundamental difference in what’s contemplated here.

“We do think it’s good to encourage families to think proactively about their choices, but in no way is any part of this mandatory,” Vaughn said.

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