Best and worst districts for school choice

According to the ECCI data, compiled from the U.S. government’s National Center for Education Statistics, school district websites, and interviews with district staff, both the Recovery School District in New Orleans and New York City are the top scoring districts for school choice.

Denver also revealed a tremendous jump in support for school choice, as the district moved from 24th place on the ECCI in 2012 to 5th place in 2013.

Some of the worst districts for school choice included Loudoun County, VA; Mobile County, Ala., and Brownsville ISD, TX.

The report’s authors explain that the Recovery District is exemplary due to their high availability of choice, with nearly 80 percent of schools being charters, a good supply of affordable private schools, vouchers for private school attendance available from the state, and virtual education provided through the Louisiana Virtual School.

NYC scores high as well due to its “exceptional” use of a centralized computer-based algorithm to assign public high school students to schools in such a way as to “maximize the match between student preferences and school assignment, conditional on any admission requirements exercised by the school.”

Students apply once and receive one offer, assuming they can match with one of the schools they have listed among their choice.

Denver recently moved up in ranking, notes the report, due to the district’s new unified choice system in which parents exercising school choice complete only one form on one timeline for all public schools, including every charter school in the district.

For example, in Denver in 2012, 83 percent of parents got a school assignment for their child that was their first, second, or third choice, and fewer than 400 families failed to get a school assignment for their child that was in their top five list (with the majority of these failures to match occurring at the pre-K level).

This unified choice system, explains the report, is very similar to the Recovery District in New Orleans.

However, the report also notes that even these ‘A’-rated districts still need improvements.

For instance, in the Recovery District, parents “would benefit from additional information on school performance, which presently lacks data on teachers and principals, does not present school gains calculated from individual student test scores, does not reveal the popularity of schools based on their rankings in parental preference, and does not enable side-by-side school comparisons.”

NYC has room for “substantial improvement” in the availability of alternative schools, since only 14 percent of NYC students attend a charter, magnet, or affordable private schools—a much lower proportion than in other large districts, such as Washington D.C.

For a full list of district rankings, click here.

[poll id=”61″]