Trends in the Use of School Choice: 1993 to 2007

National Center for Education Statistics
Sarah Grady, Stacey Bielick, and Susan Aud
April 2010

This statistical analysis from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) breaks down trends in enrollment in all major venues for K-12 education: public and private, charter and district, plus homeschooling. The report also examines characteristics of students as well as parents’ satisfaction with and involvement in such schools.

The study is an update to previous NCES reports on school choice and at 77 pages contains more data than any review can thoroughly describe. But, a few trends during this 14-year span stand out:

  • The percentage of students in grades 1-12 attending assigned public schools decreased from 80 percent to 73 percent. In effect, more students and their families are availing themselves of school choice options.
  • In 2007, just two percent of students in grades 1-12 were enrolled in charter schools. A much higher percentage of charter students hailed from cities (64 percent) when compared to students in other public schools (30 percent).
  • Public school options account for most of the increase in the use of school choice. In 1993, 11 percent of students chose to enroll in a public school other than their assigned neighborhood school. By 2007, that number grew to 16 percent. In the meantime, the number of students in both private religious and private non-religious schools grew by one percent each (from eight to nine percent, and two to three percent, respectively).

Thus, the expansion of school choice has occurred mostly in public schools. But while NCES’s trend data is very useful for broad comparisons, the report doesn’t drill down to indicate whether public school choice trends reflect intra-district or inter-district choice, or charter schools. Still, NCES provides a thorough outline of school choice trends, and illuminates that “choice” doesn’t undermine public schools. Ohio would benefit greatly by collecting and tracking such robust data on school choice that could highlight similar trends. Read the report here.

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