Federal Opinion


By Eduwonkette — April 04, 2008 2 min read

1) Grad Rate Questions: Sherman Dorn frames 12 questions about the forthcoming grad rate measure. If the 2014 proficiency target provides any indication, the answer to this question, “If there are such required benchmarks, is there any supporting research to suggest that the status or improvement benchmarks are realistic?” will be a resounding no.

2) Swifty Statistics: I’m a sucker for a good Harper’s Index, so head over to Charlie Barone’s brief on the new school choice and tutoring report. His take: “The take-home message is that more and more students are exercising their options to transfer to another school or to enroll in after-school tutoring. The number who chose to transfer more than doubled. The number enrolled in after-school programs increased over 500%.”

Charlie’s index gives us raw numbers, but the percentages of eligible students participating in choice and SES are 1% and 17%, respectively. On the choice tip, everyone likes to blame districts for not notifying parents (70% of districts required to offer choice to elementary students notified parents; 20% did at the middle school level, and 17% did at the high school level). However, the report notes that:

Most districts that did not offer the school choice option said it was because all schools at that grade level were identified for improvement. Districts typically have fewer total schools available at the middle and high school levels: 77 percent of districts with high schools have only one high school and 67 percent of districts with middle schools have only one middle school, while 53 percent of districts with elementary schools have only one elementary school.

Even if we consider the group of parents who were notified and had options in their districts, very few chose to leave their schools. The literature I’ve seen on choice suggests at least four reasons for low choice participation: 1) revealed preferences (parents are actually pretty happy with their schools, and have better information than NCLB does about these schools), 2) preferences for closeness to home and other non-academic features of schooling, 3) a lack of information about school options, and 4) structural barriers to choice (attending a non-neighborhood school imposes costs on the choosers). Whatever the reasons, we need to ask whether school choice is a better NCLB policy option than more targeted interventions that could be delivered to struggling students in the schools they currently attend.

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