You are here

Articles: School Choice

Wendy Robinson is superintendent of the 31,000-student Fort Wayne Community School District in Indiana.

Public school leaders have grown accustomed to the ground shifting beneath their feet. The one constant we could always rely on was this: Come fall, students would be there, waiting. These days, though, even that’s not a given.

In the absence of federal homeschooling guidelines, states have created provisions for such students that vary widely from one place to another, according to a July report from the Education Commission of the States.

Some states, such as Alaska, Idaho and Michigan, have little or no homeschooling regulation. Others, including Washington, New York and Pennsylvania, have robust oversight policies.

A homeschool student in Kyrene School District shows off art she created via Community Assisted Schooling Alternatives, a weekly enrichment program for K6 students.

Driven by a commitment to serve all students, or by a desire to maximize state funding, some districts are offering families that educate their children at home everything from free computers to curricular guidance.

Lakota Local School District in Ohio recently increased its communications staff to compete with private and parochial schools.

The era of school choice and open enrollment has driven many district leaders to create innovative programs and to more aggressively publicize their offerings to compete with charters and private schools that have drawn away families and funding.

Here, three districts turned the tide on enrollment with enhanced communication, construction and even recruitment initiatives.

Baruch College journalism professor Andrea Gabor has written extensively on the role of private enterprise in education reform.

Baruch College  journalism professor Andrea ​Gabor has written extensively on the role of private enterprise in education reform. The focus of her forthcoming book concerns the applicability of business systems to schools—or more specifically, the lack of applicability of many of the business systems that have been proposed as solutions to the problems of education.

Since 2011, Superintendent Elizabeth Celania Fagen has helped shift Douglas County Schools from a good district to a great one.

In the last year, the Douglas County School District in suburban Denver has been called a national model by former U.S. secretary of education William J. Bennett and “the most interesting school district in America” by the American Enterprise Institute.

Eighth graders at Richards Middle School learn how to access sites and information on their iPads. They learned about acceptable use, computer cyber safety, Evernote, Skydrive, and Blackboard.

When residents of Macomb County, Mich., tune into Pandora internet radio, they may be surprised to hear ads selling something quite different from landscaping, new cars, or home repair services.

Diane Ravitch, once a top supporter of testing and school choice, is now leading the fight against those policies.

Diane Ravitch is outspoken in her criticisms of education in this country. Her latest book Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (Knopf, 2013), pulls no punches in its arguments against testing, the charter school movement, and federally driven mandates.

North Carolina, a state once seen at the forefront of progressive education policy, has become a battleground where reformers and teachers’ advocates are clashing over a wide-ranging new voucher program and the elimination of tenure-based pay.

Test scores improved and teacher salaries hovered at the national average under former Gov. Jim Hunt’s second term, from 1993-2001. Now, teacher pay in North Carolina is 46th in the nation and the number of schools meeting federal performance measures is consistently low, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

Students in the Samuel J. Green Charter School listen to a math lesson. As part of the “portfolio” strategy, dozens of independent local and national organizations operate charter schools in the district.

It’s been a decade since Louisiana established the Recovery School District to take over the lowest-performing schools in the state. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the RSD took over almost all the schools in New Orleans, and in the process restructured the city’s school system on an unprecedented level.

Over the past 10 years, New Orleans schools have gone from being some of the lowest performing in the country to becoming a working laboratory for a bold experiment in restructuring an urban public school system.

What is at stake for K12 education in next month’s presidential election? Both President Obama and Gov. Romney say improving education will be a top priority in their administrations, but their policies and initiatives would likely be quite different.

Protestors challenge polices using race to help determine where children go to school.

The issue of whether race can or should play a role in school admissions has long plagued school districts and the courts. As districts across the country struggle to achieve diversity in a legally permissible way, whether and to what extent race may be used remains a thorny issue. Educators searching for answers encounter a complicated body of law that often leads to more questions than answers.  

One year ago, John Covington, the former superintendent of Kansas City (Mo.) Public Schools, became the chancellor of a new organization in Michigan. The new state agency, the Michigan Education Achievement Authority (EAA), will operate the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in Michigan, 38 of which are in the city of Detroit. Covington was brought in by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder because of his success in urban districts and track record for finding creative and innovative solutions.

Portfolio Strategy

When Andres Alonso joined Baltimore City (Md.) Public Schools in 2007, he wasted no time in implementing the Portfolio Strategy. The district had over 80,000 students, 91 percent of which were minority and 82 percent were low-income. Baltimore City had been plagued by low test scores and a widening achievement gap for years, and Alonso sought out this multi-tiered approach as a resolution.