Can NCLB Choice Work? Modeling the Effects of Interdistrict Choice on Student Access to Higher Performing Schools
Although NCLB says that students in failing Title I schools are supposed to be able to transfer to better options within their districts, few families have opted to make the switch, often because of a dearth of quality alternatives within those districts. In response, the Obama administration’s blueprint for overhauling ESEA proposes an inter-district transfer option for eligible students, fueled by competitive grants to participating school systems. This new modeling study from the Century Foundation tries to determine whether such a policy would increase student access to high-quality schooling. Its methodology is complex and more than a little confusing, but its findings are clear: Based on data from forty-five states, analysts estimate that interdistrict-choice programs could potentially expand access to better schools for 80 percent of students in eligible low performers nationwide. (In the current system, only 5.5 percent of students stuck in failing schools have access to adequate alternatives.) Further, they report that students in the Northeast and Midwest would benefit the most, likely due to, in part, the higher levels of district fragmentation in these regions. Unfortunately, this is mostly a pie-in-the-sky thought experiment, because it’s unlikely that suburban school districts are going to open their doors to underperforming city kids anytime soon—or that Uncle Sam can persuade or tempt or browbeat them into doing so.
Meredith P. Richards, Kori J. Stoub, and Jennifer Jellison Holme, “Can NCLB Choice Work? Modeling the Effects of Interdistrict Choice on Student Access to Higher Performing Schools” (Washington, D.C.: The Century Foundation, 2011).
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