Sunday, September 4, 2016

School choice discussion in Indianapolis

The Indy Star has the story:
Will Indy adopt central enrollment system for schools?

"A group is developing a one-stop enrollment system for Indianapolis schools but will the city’s largest education provider take part?

Indianapolis Public Schools leaders are weighing whether to join Enroll Indy, a nonprofit with plans to launch a unified enrollment process for IPS schools and charter schools within the district’s boundaries by next year.

The goal: Help parents find a school for their children in a city with growing options that feature charter schools, innovation network schools, magnet programs and more.

So far, IPS hasn’t made any commitments, though moving toward such a system is among the district’s priorities, IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said.

“Whether Enroll Indy is the best fit for IPS to go down that path is to be determined,” Ferebee told IndyStar. “The concept itself could definitely benefit our families.”

Advocates for a central enrollment system say the way parents now shop for schools is disorganized. To find the best fit, parents must juggle different application deadlines and know what programs are out there, a daunting task with the city now playing host to more than 40 charter schools.

Wealthier families can find the process easier to navigate, placing lower-income families at a disadvantage, organizers say.

“If we’re going to say we have choice,” said Caitlin Hannon, Enroll Indy’s founder, “everybody should have equitable access to that choice.”

Hannon, a former IPS School Board member, said the group is hoping to launch its first application process next fall for the 2018-19 school year. But first it needs buy-in from the city’s schools, and Hannon started making her pitch to IPS this month.

A 2015 report by the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice found that the city’s schools are in “intense competition to enroll students.”

“There is no incentive for IPS, for example, to tell parents about charter schools. Or for Ball State University to ensure families understand the IPS magnet school application,” according to the report. “In both cases, doing so would not be in their best self-interest. For families, though the distinction between authorizers is less important. Parents are looking for the best school for their child, regardless of who runs it. For them, not having the information in one easy-to-access place doesn’t make sense.”

Families would apply through Enroll Indy to any participating school, where they’d rank their school preferences and be matched with a program.

Hannon said families would be asked their priorities, such as location and where siblings attend. Students are then matched to the school “they want the most that they can get into, based on those priorities,” Hannon said.

“I like to explain it as all schools lotteries happening at the same moment…,” she said.

An analysis of a similar system run in Denver Public Schools found not enough seats existed in high-performing schools to serve demand. That meant students often were assigned to lower-performing schools than initially requested.

But the system would come with perks, Hannon said. Parents would no longer have to hold spots for their children at multiple schools, making it easier for administrators to plan staffing needs...."

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