Thursday, February 19, 2015

School choice, and the information needed to make good choices

In Education Week, Arianna Prothero writes about school choice and the difficulties parents may have in evaluating schools in cities including New Orleans, Denver, and the District of Columbia, three cities in which IIPSC has helped role out school choice.

Parents Confront Obstacles as School Choice Expands

"Research shows that an abundance of school choice doesn't guarantee access, and many parents in high-choice cities struggle to find adequate information, transportation, and, ultimately, the right school for their children.
"But parents, especially those with less education or with children who have special needs, face multiple barriers when choosing a school, according to an ongoing series of reports from the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education.
This issue has long raised questions among advocates inside and outside the school choice movement about how much of the burden of quality assurance should rest with parents, and what role local governments or other entities should play in regulating the school choice marketplace.
"Excellent Schools Detroit has been trying to fill that need by grading schools in the city using a common set of metrics. Parents, teachers, and outside education experts help evaluate school performance and culture, and the results are published in an annual score card.
Having comparable information across sectors is a major step toward removing the information barrier for families, according to the Center on Reinventing Public Education. In some cities, the effort is taken on by an organization like Excellent Schools Detroit; elsewhere, districts and charter schools collaborate to create common performance measures.
Several cities also hold fairs or expos where families can get information on different schools and the application process all in one place.
But Mr. Varner said the efforts can't stop there. "If it's going to be a market, it has to be regulated properly," he said of school choice."

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