Report shows education options expanding across U.S.

A decade of growth in education options has led to a significant shift in where U.S. students are going to school.

When it comes to education options—from kindergarten up through college—the decision is no longer simple for students and their parents, a new federal report suggests.

Children don’t just attend their neighborhood public school anymore. They often choose between that and the charter school across town, as the number of students enrolled in charter schools has more than tripled since 2000.

And after graduation, students increasingly are looking beyond traditional state and private schools for a higher education. For-profit colleges—offering flexible schedules but high costs and lower graduation rates—have enrolled one out of four new undergraduate students in the U.S. since 2000.

“Despite lots of progress on building better and more accountable schools, we’re still a long way from nirvana,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform. “As long you have a system that is still failing to provide an adequate education to most of its kids, you’re going to have a demand for options.”

A decade of growth in education options has led to a significant shift in where students in the United States are going to school, according to a report released May 26 by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

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Education reform experts pointed to several factors in the rise of students pursuing alternative education options. At the primary level, frustration over persistently struggling schools—frequently in large, urban communities—has made charter schools an appealing choice for many families.

Charter schools receive taxpayer dollars but have flexibility over how to meet education standards.

The most recent figures show charter schools served 1.4 million students in 2008-09, up from 340,000 at the start of the decade. Allen predicts charter school enrollment could reach 3 million children by 2015 if the pace continues.

In Philadelphia, for example, school officials estimate one in four public school students will be enrolled in one of its 82 charter schools next year. Charter school enrollment in the city has leaped from 16,000 students in the 2001-02 academic year to a projected 47,000 next year.

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