Brookings Makes Thoughtful Recommendations on Choice

Brookings  released a thoughtful report encouraging expanding K-12 choice including the following recommendations

  • choice be exercised through systems in which parents have more options than at present (with the expansion of virtual education programs being a promising means to that end);
  • admission into particular schools within choice systems be open;
  • selection into oversubscribed schools and programs be determined by lottery (which could be conducted using weights to enhance socioeconomic or geographic balance when that is a desired goal);
  • choice systems not include a default (all parents would have to choose);
  • all schools supported with public funds within choice systems be subject to the same standards and assessment regimen under which traditional public schools within a state are required to operate in order to provide transparency for choice;
  • the popularity of schools as revealed through parental preferences be reflected in funding formulas so that more popular schools garner additional resources to meet enrollment demand; and
  • substantially undersubscribed schools be restructured or closed. In order to ground the exercise of choice in valid and easily used information on the characteristics and performance of education programs, we further recommend that:
  • school systems be required to provide timely and relevant information to parents to support choice; • one or more choice navigation websites be developed with the support of federal funds that would be independent of education providers; and
  • school systems be incentivized to link these choice navigation websites to their parental choice systems.

The Executive Summary concludes:

We believe the best evidence suggests that a) parents, including those with low levels of education, can make choices of schools for their children that are sensitive to school performance; b) students from low-income backgrounds benefit from their parents’ decision to send them to higher performing schools; c) the form in which information is presented to parents has important effects on their choice of schools; and d) parental choice can create a competitive market for better schools if the growth of preferred schools and the closure or restructuring of unpopular schools is provided for.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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