Federal

Mapping Analysis Finds Interdistrict-Choice Options to Be Limited

August 26, 2008 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The use of interdistrict-choice programs is unlikely to increase most students’ educational opportunities significantly, a new report concludes, despite recent attention to the idea as a means of reducing economic and racial segregation and giving students in low-performing public schools a chance to find a better school.

“Only a limited number of students in a limited number of locations are likely to benefit from interdistrict choice—and even then, only if carefully crafted policies succeed where many past programs have failed,” says the report, issued this week by Education Sector, a Washington think tank that supports public school choice.

The study analyzes performance data and public school locations in California, Florida, and Texas, three of the most populous states. Using Geographic Information Systems mapping technology, it estimates the driving time from lower-performing schools to significantly higher-performing schools in the same geographic area.

Factors such as long distances to higher-achieving schools and limited capacity in those schools can severely constrain students’ ability to take advantage of interdistrict choice, the report concludes. Even under the best-designed interdistrict-choice programs, it says, 80 percent to 90 percent of students would remain in the same low-performing schools.

Some choice advocates have called for changes to the federal No Child Left Behind Act to make it easier for students in low-performing public schools to transfer across district lines to higher-performing ones.

Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a New York City-based nonprofit public-policy-research institution, argues that the new report is “fatally flawed” because it assumes that higher-performing schools would increase capacity at most by 10 percent.

“The whole report is premised on this assumption about capacity,” said Mr. Kahlenberg, who has written in favor of interdistrict-choice programs and is a nonresident fellow at Education Sector. “I don’t have the ability to tell you the right number is 10 percent or 5 percent or 30 percent, but neither does Education Sector.”

Uncertainty on Capacity

But Erin M. Dillon, the report’s author and a policy analyst at the think tank, argues that the 10 percent figure, while not scientifically based, was reasonable.

“If we’re looking to do this on a large scale, what can we expect schools to handle?” she said. “We felt like 10 percent was a realistic number.”

Education Sector also assumed a top driving time of 20 minutes to other schools. And it assumed that the choice option would be limited to students in the bottom 40 percent of schools, based on test data, and that those students would be permitted to transfer to other schools with substantially better performance outcomes.

Using those criteria, across California, about 7 percent of students at schools serving grade 3 could transfer to higher-performing schools when choice was limited to schools within the students’ home district. That climbs to nearly 12 percent when choice was expanded to include schools in other districts.

At grade 7, intradistrict choice in California was available for just 4 percent of students within the same district, and rose to 9 percent with interdistrict choice.

In Texas, the report found suburban students to be most likely to benefit from interdistrict choice.

Across states, Ms. Dillon said, extending the driving time to one hour generally had little impact.

“If one student can travel an hour, then all students can travel an hour,” she said, “so it actually doesn’t tend to change the numbers too much.”

The report highlights a few places, such as Plano, Texas, where interdistrict choice may be especially promising based on the proximity of low- and high-performing schools and available capacity.

The report offers proposals to help make interdistrict choice more viable, such as providing free transportation and creating financial incentives for schools to accept students.

Dianne M. Piché, the executive director of the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, a Washington-based advocacy group, says the report is beneficial in beginning to look at maps and performance data to better gauge alternatives for students.

“It’s an imperfect picture,” she said, “but it’s the beginning of a picture of the landscape of choice possibilities.”

A version of this article appeared in the August 27, 2008 edition of Education Week as Mapping Analysis Finds Interdistrict-Choice Options to Be Limited

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Reframing Behavior: Neuroscience-Based Practices for Positive Support
Reframing Behavior helps teachers see the “why” of behavior through a neuroscience lens and provides practices that fit into a school day.
Content provided by Crisis Prevention Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Math for All: Strategies for Inclusive Instruction and Student Success
Looking for ways to make math matter for all your students? Gain strategies that help them make the connection as well as the grade.
Content provided by NMSI

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Opinion 'Jargon' and 'Fads': Departing IES Chief on State of Ed. Research
Better writing, timelier publication, and more focused research centers can help improve the field, Mark Schneider says.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal Electric School Buses Get a Boost From New State and Federal Policies
New federal standards for emissions could accelerate the push to produce buses that run on clean energy.
3 min read
Stockton Unified School District's new electric bus fleet reduces over 120,000 pounds of carbon emissions and leverages The Mobility House's smart charging and energy management system.
A new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency sets higher fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles. By 2032, it projects, 40 percent of new medium heavy-duty vehicles, including school buses, will be electric.
Business Wire via AP
Federal What Would Happen to K-12 in a 2nd Trump Term? A Detailed Policy Agenda Offers Clues
A conservative policy agenda could offer the clearest view yet of K-12 education in a second Trump term.
8 min read
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, March 9, 2024, in Rome Ga.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, March 9, 2024, in Rome, Ga. Allies of the former president have assembled a detailed policy agenda for every corner of the federal government with the idea that it would be ready for a conservative president to use at the start of a new term next year.
Mike Stewart/AP
Federal Opinion Student Literacy Rates Are Concerning. How Can We Turn This Around?
The ranking Republican senator on the education committee wants to hear from educators and families about making improvements.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty