More Choice Access and Information Would Help Serve Denver Students

Ed News Colorado’s top-line story today details the “surprising findings” of a new National Association of Charter School Authorizers report that a majority of Denver Public Schools students attend schools that don’t meet district performance expectations:

“There are 20,000 elementary school students in the Denver Public Schools system who … don’t have a performing elementary school to go to,” said NACSA vice president William Haft. “That’s half the elementary-aged students in the system.”

Discouraging results? In some sense, yes. But we have known that a lot of hard work remains before us in improving educational outcomes for American students, especially poorer students in urban settings. And the fact that Denver actually has been serious about establishing and using a performance framework puts the district ahead of some of its peers. The report is fascinating, with a lot of detailed information, so it’s worth a read.

But one observation highlighted in the Ed News Colorado story caught my attention:

The report did find a correlation between school quality and choice – 50 percent of students in schools earning the highest rating of Distinguished were there by choice compared to 28 percent of those in the lowest-rated or On Probation schools.

Among the “Distinguished” schools are two of the city’s brightest and best charter school successes: West Denver Prep and Denver School of Science and Technology.

It is encouraging not only to see more parents exercising choice but also to see them exercising good choices academically. Not that we should be surprised: by and large, parents know what’s best for their children. Interestingly, then, this is one of the report’s recommendations:

Improve access to the Choice Program for Hispanic students by targeted communication on the program and its school options as well as by locating school options in the neighborhoods where these students reside.

Parents tend to choose best. More choice is needed. Provide greater access and the best information so parents can make the most informed choice. Yes, point them to our School Choice for Kids website.