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No Child Left Behind: A Desktop Reference
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Voluntary Public School Choice (V-B-3)

Purpose

According to the 1993 National Household Education Survey, most American families choose their child's school. While 20 percent of parents chose a school other than the public school assigned to their residential neighborhood, an additional 39 percent of families claim they chose their neighborhood for its public school. In effect, 59 percent of American families are making conscious choices about which school best suits their needs. Nearly every state has some type of choice plan, either allowing families to choose a public school within a district, across the state, or among charters or magnet schools. The Voluntary Public School Choice program helps states and local school districts implement public school choice policies by providing funds for transportation, tuition transfer payments to the schools that students choose to attend, increasing the capacity of high-demand schools to serve greater numbers of students, and disseminating information about open enrollment options.

WHAT'S NEW--The No Child Left Behind Act

Increases Accountability for Student Performance

  • Requires evaluation of effects. The U.S. Department of Education will evaluate: (1) the extent to which the programs funded promote educational equity and excellence; (2) the characteristics of participating students; and (3) the effect of the program on the academic achievement of students participating in the program, particularly students who move from low- to higher-performing schools, and on the overall quality of participating schools and districts.

Empowers Parents

  • Provides options for parents in low-performing schools. The act provides a priority for applicants whose program would provide the widest variety of choices and a program that would have the greatest impact on students in low-performing schools by providing an education for them in a more rigorous educational setting found in a higher-performing school.

How It Works

The Voluntary Public School Choice program authorizes competitive awards to state education agencies (SEAs), school districts, or partnerships that include an SEA or a district and another organization. Funding is available to establish or expand programs that provide students and parents with greater public school choice. Grants are for up to five years, and grantees may use up to one year for planning or program design.

Key Requirements

States and districts document their public school choice program; how and when parents will be notified of the program; how students will be selected for participation; and how the program will be coordinated with other federal and nonfederal projects. Grantees must provide transportation to participating students. Priority is given to projects that:

  • Provide the widest variety of choices to all students in schools participating in the program;
  • Have the greatest impact in allowing students in low-performing schools to attend higher-performing schools; and
  • Implement an inter district public school choice program.

When more students apply than can be accommodated, the plan must select students to participate on the basis of a lottery.

How It Achieves Quality

Not only are parents able to choose high-quality programs for their children, but the competition among schools to attract students is designed to result in higher-quality education programs in all schools. In addition, accountability provisions in No Child Left Behind require that students in low-performing schools have the options of choosing another school that can provide a higher-quality education.

How Performance Is Measured

The U.S. Department of Education will evaluate whether SEAs have public school choice plans that include: (1) the extent to which programs promote educational equity and excellence; (2) the characteristics of participating students; and (3) the programs' effects on the academic achievement of participating students, particularly those who move from low- to higher-performing schools, and on the overall quality of participating schools and districts.

Key Activities For The State Education Agencies

State education agencies:

  • With approved applications must disseminate information about public school choice not in other program sections.
  • With approved applications must create and implement program planning and monitoring guidelines for grantees.

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Last Modified: 09/14/2007