School Choice Is Great, but to Have Schools Worth Choosing, There Must Be Equity, Access, and Diversity, Say Authors of New Report
To establish an effective school choice system that benefits all children, experts emphasize the importance of focusing on equity and access, as well as the creation of schools that cater to the needs of every student. This was highlighted in a recent report, which was discussed at an event in Washington, where John Brittain, a professor and acting dean of the law school at the University of the District of Columbia, stressed the significance of the right choice in promoting educational equity and reducing racial isolation and segregation.
The report, released by the Learning Policy Institute think tank and authored by Patrick Shields, outlines the need for policymakers to prioritize choice in order to establish a system of schools that are worth choosing and ensure that every student is selected by a high-quality school. The authors emphasize that districts must consciously create options that are accessible to students in all neighborhoods and of all academic levels.
An example of successful systemic reforms can be seen in San Antonio, where sought-after schools like Montessori and dual language programs were introduced. These schools not only catered to the most disadvantaged students but also attracted wealthier families, thus promoting integration within district schools.
Mohammed Choudhury, the chief innovation officer and architect of the innovative integration approach in San Antonio, argues that neglecting integration implies acceptance of a "separate but equal" standard for schools, similar to the ruling in the Supreme Court’s 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case. Choudhury believes that advocating for the promise of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which abolished segregated schools, is crucial.
Furthermore, it is vital for choice systems to address the needs of special populations, including students with disabilities. Julie Mead, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, suggests that policymakers should determine whether charter schools should be obligated or incentivized to serve students with disabilities. Additionally, for interdistrict transfers, it is important to clarify whether the sending or receiving school district bears the responsibility of providing a free, appropriate public education to the student, as required by federal law.
The effectiveness of accountability systems relies on their implementation. According to Mead, regions that are less autonomous tend to have higher quality accountability systems. Massachusetts serves as an example of a place with such high quality systems.
Schools must also address issues like disproportionate school discipline and segregation within schools, particularly within gifted and talented programs, according to Ashley Griffin, director of P-12 research at The Education Trust.
It should be noted that the Learning Policy Institute and receive financial support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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