AEFP 43rd Annual Conference Program
Chair:, University of California - Davis
Chair:, University of Michigan
Chair:, Elon University
Chair:, University of Missouri
Chair:, American Institutes for Research
Chair:, Center on Reinventing Public Education
One of the ways in which choice is supposed to improve results for students is by facilitating better matches between students and schools. This assumes that systems provide families with school options to choose from. Research on parent preferences suggests that parents care about a host of school qualities, including academic performance but also curriculum, pedagogical approach, school location, and enrichment opportunities. Some community advocates and observers of choice have expressed concern that, for a variety of reasons, schools in high-choice cities may all offer similar programs with only marginal variety and so constrain the ability of parents to find a good (and distinctive) match for their child.
To understand the extent to which families’ school choices are diverse or homogenous, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) used publicly available information about school programmatic offerings to analyze the portfolio of school options in three choice-rich cities: Denver, New Orleans, and Washington, DC. CRPE’s analysis found that schools in our three study cities did vary in their curricular, pedagogical and extracurricular offerings, but that many did a poor job of differentiating themselves and making clear their distinct offerings - particularly schools at the K-8 level. Recent results from CRPE’s parent surveys revealed that while parents perceived their school systems as providing a lot of options to choose from, they felt that the choices actually available to them were quite limited.
In this policy talk, we will discuss this issue with three education leaders from Denver who are immersed in the work of diversifying the city’s school supply. The talk will probe the following topics:
- To what degree is the array of school options diverse and varied in choice-rich cities like Denver? How much diversity is meaningful for families, and what dimensions of school diversity are they seeking?
- What are the policy mechanisms Denver is using to shape the supply, and what others are available to cities?
- What are the implications for cities where choice is just starting and/or growing? What strategies can they use to track and shape the supply of schools and how it does or does not meet what communities and families want?
The goal of the talk is to delve into this issue that is top-of-mind for many cities and have a rich discussion with education leaders representing different sectors in a city who are taking action to address it. Our hope is to illuminate for researchers the importance of school fit for families as well as academic quality, as more research in this area is needed, and connect research findings on diversity of options with possible policy mechanisms for change.