NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Orleans Tops School Choice and Competition Index

February 9, 2015

How does your school district stack up against the rest of the nation when it comes to school choice? The Brookings Institution has released its 2014 Education Choice and Competition Index, ranking 107 large school districts across the country. At the top? New Orleans, Louisiana. Today, 91 percent of New Orleans students attend charter schools, and 78 percent of students graduate from high school, up from just 54 percent in 2004.

Researchers Grover Whitehurst and Ellie Klein scored districts based on 13 different categories, including:

  • Are there alternatives to traditional public schools? If so, how many students are enrolled in them?
  • Do students have access to free online courses? Do those courses count towards graduation requirements?
  • Can parents choose schools for their children? Is choice based on first-come first-served or a lottery system?
  • Does the school district provide performance data to parents so that they can compare schools? Is that information easy to understand?

After accounting for all 13 factors, the Recovery District School District in New Orleans was the only district to receive an A rating, but New York City and Newark City School District both received A minuses.

Who didn't do so well? Thirty-three school districts earned Fs. According to the report, "A letter grade of F…means that families have very little in the way of school choice other than the choice that parents can exercise by purchasing a residence within the geographical assignment zone of their preferred public school." However, the authors noted that receiving an F on the school choice index is not necessarily an indication of poor student achievement. For example, it notes that Brownsville, Texas, has received awards based on student achievement and low achievement gaps compared to the rest of the state, yet it was third from the bottom in Brookings' school choice rankings.

Whitehurst and Klein elaborated on Brownsville's low ranking: "Students can transfer between schools in Brownsville only through a laborious application process with many requirements, including that the parent obtain the paper transfer application form in person at one given location for the whole district on one particular calendar day for the whole year."

Source: Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst and Ellie Klein, "The 2014 Education Choice and Competition Index," Brookings Institution, February 4, 2015. 


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