Friday, March 6, 2020

Thomas Toch on school choice and the presidential campaigns

Toch: School Choice Is Here to Stay. But How to Make It Fair and Equitable for All Families? High-Tech Common-Enrollment System Can Help

"The leading Democratic presidential candidates — liberals Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but also moderates Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg — have derided publicly funded charter schools as a threat to traditional public schools. But charter schools and the new, more consumer-oriented public education landscape they represent are here to stay.
"In this climate, the policy question is not whether we should have public-sector choice. Instead, we should be asking how to make choice systems in public education efficient and fair for all families. One promising answer: common-enrollment systems that allow families to select traditional public schools or charters through a single, centralized selection process powered by algorithms that match as many students as possible to their top choices.
"But taking advantage of expanding public options traditionally meant navigating myriad application timelines and deadlines without information to make clear comparisons.

"It meant oversubscribed schools pulling names out of paper bags, families pitching tents on sidewalks — or paying others to camp out for them — to get to the front of waiting-list lines and schools cherry-picking applicants to get the most attractive students. It was a system favoring the well-educated, the wealthy and the well-connected.

"For schools, that system made planning almost impossible. Many students were admitted to multiple schools but didn’t let schools know their plans, causing thousands of waitlisted students to change schools even after the start of classes, leaving administrators guessing about revenue and staffing, and disrupting instruction.

"But in recent years, the District of Columbia, Denver, New Orleans and a handful of other cities have launched a new way of matching students to schools that addresses these problems."

In the manner of journalists with space limitations, Toch goes on to attribute these advances to "Alvin Roth and colleagues."  Of course, prominent among those colleagues are the two leaders in the modern school choice revolution, Atila Abdulkadiroglu and Parag Pathak.

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