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Most parents and students who participate in Massachusetts' school-choice program are satisfied with it, and most of them chose schools in other districts for academic reasons, according to a survey by the state executive office of education.

The survey showed that 71 percent of 826 responding parents said their children's performance had improved as a result of participation in the plan; 63 percent of the parents cited academics as the primary reason for choosing schools outside their home districts.

Secretary of Education Piedad F. Robertson said the survey results rebut critics' claims that parents participate for reasons not related to academics.

The program is in its third year, with more than 4,200 students involved statewide as of December. Through this academic year, school boards had to vote in favor of receiving students from outside their borders, with 73 of the state's 354 districts doing so. But for the 1994-95 academic year, districts automatically will be part of the program unless they vote against participation by next month.

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