Voluntary Public School Choice

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2002-2003 Grant Abstracts

The following projects were awarded grants in 2002. These same grantees receive noncompetitive continuation grants in 2003. Further funding is contingent upon performance.

Arkansas Department of Education, Little Rock, Arkansas

The Arkansas Department of Education (DOE), in partnership with K12, Inc., seeks to implement a project called the Arkansas Virtual School Pilot (AVSP) program. The project aims to measurably improve student achievement results by providing parents of children in schools identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, as well as students statewide, with options. This effort provides a school choice component that is individualized, rigorous, self-paced, technology based, and mastery focused and incorporates significant parental involvement. AVSP will serve up to 1,400 elementary and middle school students during the first year of the project.

The Arkansas Department of Education will be responsible for project administration, assisting and selecting a principal, compiling and submitting the required reports, budget planning and implementation, strategic planning, maintenance of student enrollment data, and financial management. K12, Inc. will be responsible for building and delivering online curriculum; maintaining student records and academic achievement data; delivering curricular materials, computers, and peripherals; hiring teachers; disseminating information to parents about the program; maintaining a toll-free call center for parents; managing the enrollment application process; providing tools and training for teachers, administrators, and parents; and providing other operational management services.

The goal of this collaborative partnership between Arkansas Department of Education and K12, Inc. is to implement a statewide virtual school project providing an additional, accessible, flexible, and voluntary public school choice for parents to secure a high-quality education for their children.

Desert Sands Unified School District, La Quinta, California

The project being implemented by Desert Sands is called Desert Sands Voluntary Public School Choice Program. The purpose is to expand the public school choice program by increasing the educational options available to students who are currently attending seven low-performing schools. The project includes five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Most of the eligible students who may choose to transfer are expected to be English Learners. In the fall of 2004, a seventh receiving school will be added to the program.

Key components of the program will include:

  • A proactive campaign to make parents of eligible students aware of transfer options;
  • A randomized process for student selection at any site that oversubscribes and is unable to accommodate students eligible to transfer to a higher performing school;
  • A succinct coordination of relevant programs that complement the Voluntary Public School Choice Program, specifically six programs with similar objectives;
  • A strong partnership element that includes a public charter school and 16 municipal and community agencies or organizations; and,
  • An extensive evaluation and information collection process that obtains both formative and summative data to assess the outcome of this project.

This project aims to make valid educational choices available to families whose children attend the lowest performing schools and have the right to transfer, with transportation provided, to higher performing schools.

New Haven Public Schools, New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven's proposed project, New Haven Public Schools' Voluntary Public School Choice Program, will expand the current public school choice program which includes intradistrict transfers, project choice, interdistrict magnet schools and charter schools, plus introduce a new component called lighthouse schools. Lighthouse schools are focused on providing parental options for children/students who are attending schools that have been identified as low performing.

The project's objectives include:

  • Increasing the number of students in low performing schools who will apply to other schools;
  • Augmenting the number of seats available in each school of choice;
  • Enlarging the number of students in low-performing schools who are admitted to schools of choice;
  • Heightening academic achievement specifically in language arts and mathematics for students from low performing schools who are attending schools of choice;
  • Multiplying the number of African-American and Latino students who excel academically (which is measured by reaching State standards in language arts and mathematics);
  • Providing adequate professional development for teachers in the receiving schools; and
  • Expanding parental participation in school activities.

New Haven's Voluntary Public School Choice program addresses the unique needs of the students in participating schools by broadening supplemental services; and, enhancing educational strategies to meet the needs of target students including the implementation of the School Development Program, Breakthrough Literacy, and Haskin's Lab Early Reading Success. These programs are validated by research and scientifically based.

State of Florida Department of Education, Tallahassee, Florida

The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) seeks to expand its public education delivery system by encouraging a wide variety of statewide educational choice options available to all students. The FLDOE believes by offering a wide variety of public educational choices, school districts will see an increase in student achievement, school improvement, parental involvement, equity, and diversity. The FLDOE supports school districts that are implementing a variety of educational choice opportunities including magnet schools, alternative schools, charter schools, special programs, advanced placement, dual enrollment, and parental choice open enrollment.

Florida's Voluntary Public School Choice Program proposes to reinstate, sustain, and expand the implementation of public school choice and to replicate the successful public school choice programs throughout Florida and the nation. The main objectives of the program are to allow a wide variety of educational choices for all students, substantially impact students in low performing schools by providing opportunities for them to attend higher-performing schools, and increase student academic achievement.

The FLDOE's Voluntary Public School Choice program will meet the goals of this project by forming partnerships with school districts, universities, technical assistance providers, and educational reform entities. The aim is to expand the implementation of public school choice throughout the State by providing support and guidance to school districts that have not been able to implement a variety of public school choices.

Key goals and components of the project include:

  • Addressing the unique educational needs of students within participating school districts especially by allowing students from low-performing schools to attend higher performing schools;
  • Evaluating and measuring the elements of the project to determine its effectiveness on student achievement, equity, diversity, accessibility, and school improvement;
  • Establishing quality indicators in the implementation of choice programs;
  • Marketing the successes of school choice and creating a showcase of best practices for public school choice that can be presented statewide and nationally;
  • Identifying school districts who can serve as mentor districts to other districts interested in planning and implementing choice programs; and,
  • Utilizing and cultivating Florida's leaders in parental choice.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami, Florida

Miami's proposal is designed to significantly expand the current voluntary public school choice program by broadening the availability of high quality educational options for students and their parents. Miami's voluntary public school choice program called "I Choose!" will divide the district into smaller geographic areas (Choice Zones). Each Choice Zone will offer a wide variety of high quality public school choice programs and contain a high number of critically low performing schools. Rather than transporting students long distances to participate in limited choice programs, this innovative approach will provide qualitative options for educating students within a smaller geographic area.

Objectives for Miami's project include:

  • Creating Choice Zones that include a wide variety of educational options;
  • Identifying, developing, documenting, and replicating pedagogical methods and practices that promote student achievement, while meeting students' needs and interests;
  • Increasing the capacity of successful choice programs;
  • Providing cost-effective transportation options and equitable access to choice programs;
  • Enhancing marketing and recruitment strategies throughout the communities;
  • Establishing a Choice Academic Support Team to improve student achievement by implementing proven educational strategies; and,
  • Conducting extensive professional development for teachers through an intensive 10-day I Choose! Summer Institute.

The Program's goal is to significantly expand the availability of high quality school choice options for parents in Miami-Dade through the implementation of specific activities: (1) parents will have more opportunities to choose which schools their children will attend and have greater access to transportation; (2) competitive principles will increase the quality of schools and reduce the number of ineffective schools; (3) low-income families will be able to attend better schools of their choice; and (4) parents' involvement in their children's education will increase.

School District of Hillsborough County, Tampa, Florida

The School District of Hillsborough County proposes to expand the implementation of a large-scale choice system called Hillsborough Choice (HC). The purpose of this voluntary public school choice program is to ensure equal educational access and opportunity for all children. HC provides students with the option to attend other schools, in addition to their assigned schools. To achieve "community" or regional schools, the HC plan divides the district into seven zones incorporating central city areas. HC encourages "zone" students to attend suburban schools by offering high interest (academic and/or career) "attractor" programs.

The project focuses on a major component of HC--Parent Resource Centers. The Parent Resource Centers will be located and will serve parents, communities, and district staff within each zone. The Centers will disseminate information on choice options, e.g. distribution of applications for choice opportunities. Community Choice Contacts will staff each Center and assist families in deciphering information on choice options and understanding choice decisions.

Additional and important components of HC to be supported by this project are:

  1. an intensive marketing campaign;
  2. a comprehensive transportation system; and,
  3. curriculum enhancement for all "attractor" programs.

Evaluation of the project will be ongoing with an emphasis on low-performing schools. Evaluation will include: how and to what extent the project promotes educational equity and excellence, characteristics of participating students, and the effect the project has on students' academic achievement.

Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago's project will address the challenge the district faces in providing school choice for approximately 110,000 students in low-performing schools who are eligible to transfer to higher performing schools. This project is called the Chicago Public School Choice Initiative (CPSCI).

An integral component of this initiative is the creation of new Neighborhood Learning Clusters (NLC). The NLCs will draw upon the successes of current magnet clusters, charter schools, and small schools. The project will establish two NLCs, during each year of the proposal. An NLC will consist of six schools in close proximity: five with a specific academic focus and one will start a new partnership school with its own unique educational model. The NLC will be comprised of existing low and high performing elementary schools. Resources will be provided for the participating schools to create a specialized learning environment.

To improve dissemination of information about the new choice initiative, CPS is forming a partnership with Leadership for Quality Education. They will develop and carry out a citywide communication plan aimed at informing parents.

The CPS School Choice Initiative has three goals:

  • To expand the variety of choice options which allow parents to select from a range of high-performing schools in close proximity to their homes (by creating NLCs);
  • To maximize the learning environment in an effort to ensure that students reach and/or exceed academic content and performance standards; and
  • To provide parents with appropriate and timely information regarding the CPS's School Choice Initiative.

Rockford Public School District #205, Rockford, Illinois

Rockford Public School District 205 (RPSD) will be implementing a Voluntary Public School Choice Program--"Choice for Achievement." This comprehensive public school choice program will focus on systemic change. The Choice for Achievement Advisory Council has determined that any changes must continue to focus on promotion of educational equity and raising academic standards for all students.

The goals for Choice for Achievement are:

  • To improve communication with RPSD parents;
  • To enhance student/parent transportation services;
  • To increase supplemental academic activities for parents, students, and teachers;
  • To build active long-term relationships with community agencies; and
  • To enhance the district's climate for parents and students.

Five of RPSD's elementary schools have failed to make adequate yearly progress and this has affected at least 1,600 students. RPSD has created an extensive network to disseminate information to parents and students notifying them of choice options. Free transportation will be available to all parents with the intent of orienting them on the options available for their children. Bilingual liaisons will hold individual meetings with limited English proficient parents and students to assist them in making informed decisions. Parent Information Centers will be enhanced at all receiving schools. This project proposes to expand the current Voluntary Public School Choice Program.

download files PDF, (200 KB) Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning, Roseville, Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning (CFL), in partnership with the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), the West Metro Education Program (WMEP), and the Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP, will implement the Minnesota Voluntary Public School Choice Project. The project is being implemented to expand the school choice options for all Minneapolis-area urban and suburban families and students, with a particular focus on families whose children attend low-performing schools.

The project seeks to expand upon the existing public school choice options--traditional neighborhood schools, magnet schools, charter schools, and inter-district schools. It will enhance The Choice is Yours program, which currently offers intra- and inter-district school choice options to families and student in MPS and nine suburban school districts.

Key components of the project are:

  • To increase family outreach efforts through cohesive marketing strategies and coordinated education campaigns including Family Information Centers;
  • To enhance transportation services for students in participating schools; and
  • To help students make the transition to higher performing schools by providing academic tutoring and support services.

Participation in the Minnesota Voluntary School Choice Project is strictly voluntary, however, components of the project will target families whose children are seeking to leave low-performing schools and attend higher performing schools.

Monadnock Regional School District, Swanzey, New Hampshire

The Monadnock-Region Public Schools of Choice will plan and implement a program with a rural/small town approach to voluntary public school choice. The proposed project is called Voluntary School Choice for New Hampshire and includes an array of partners such as the local education agency, the State education agency, institutions of higher education, and the community itself. Specifically, the proposal addresses obstacles to providing quality choices for parents of students in low-performing and borderline schools in Southwest New Hampshire.

The guiding principles for Monadnock's project are:

  • Creating a realistic and sustainable approach to choice that is viable for regions that are rural, including small towns;
  • Instilling a dynamic that aims to make every school a school of choice;
  • Providing greater accessibility to students and a wide variety of choices for parents to obtain a quality education for their children;
  • Designing a choice program that meets the needs of diverse students; and
  • Enhancing strategies to inform and empower parents to serve as advocates for their children's education.

The Project has three goals:

  1. To provide additional public school choices for parents in Fall 2003 and a wide variety of viable and accessible educational options among high performing schools at the primary and secondary levels by Fall 2006.
  2. To identify and address the needs of a diverse student population by supporting students through their matriculation and provide assistance in preparation for life options/skills.
  3. To support and encourage parents' ability to make informed choices about their children's education.

Brighter Choice Charter Schools, Albany, New York

The Brighter Choice Charter Schools' Albany/Buffalo Public School Choice Project is being implemented to expand public school choice in two urban areas of New York State: Albany and Buffalo. This project is focused on providing public school choice options for students who are attending public schools that have been identified as low performing.

The project has four objectives:

  • To increase access to interdistrict transfers for students in low performing schools by offering tuition transfers between urban and suburban school districts;
  • To expand existing and create new magnet school options for students in low performing schools by implementing capacity enhancing activities;
  • To create district charter schools by enlisting partners for establishing new charter schools and converting traditional public schools; and
  • To provide greater choices within the public school system, particularly for students in low performing schools by broadening charter schools capacity.

The anticipated benefits of this cross-State (Albany and Buffalo) project include: having more students attend better performing schools; substantially increasing the options available to children in low-performing schools; and creating public school alternatives in partnership with the districts' leadership by the expansion of magnet school capacity and creation of district-sponsored charters. By transforming these two key urban areas of New York State, the project is expected to ultimately pave the way for reform in urban districts that face similar challenges.

Greenburgh Central School District #7, Hartsdale, New York

The Voluntary Public School Choice Program to be implemented by Greenburgh Central School District #7 is called Greenburgh Choices in Education. It will create a student centered, personalized program that provides educational choices based upon the needs and abilities of K-12 students. The proposal includes forming academies at the elementary school level, implementing the John Hopkins Talent Development Model at the middle school level, and career academies at the high school level. The common goals of all programs will be the development of literacy and mathematics mastery, plus strong problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Key components of the project include the Summer Bridge Program, to assist in the transition from middle school to high school; and the Ninth Grade Success Academy, to provide individualized instruction and planning for each student's career pathway.

Enhancing parental involvement by encouraging partnerships between parents and schools is a mainstay of this project with a specific focus on impacting students in low performing schools. This proposal aims to expand Greenburgh's voluntary public school choice program.

School District Number 2, Multnomah County, Portland, Oregon

Portland Public Schools (PPS), District Number 1, plans to establish a coherent system of choice that expands educational options for all students and parents. The project will focus on scientifically research-based strategies and procedures to assist students attending low-performing schools and their parents.

PPS's project has the following objectives:

  • To increase the percentage of low-income and minority students at low-performing schools who have an opportunity to attend a higher-performing school;
  • To expand local capacity to provide a system of school choice;
  • To improve achievement among students who transfer from low to higher-performing schools; and,
  • To identify scientifically research-based strategies and best practices that support a high-quality, sustainable system of choice for all students.

To meet the preceding objectives, PPS has a number of key project components:

  1. Using various outreach efforts, parents will be notified of the choice policies, procedures, and options available with a specific focus on students attending schools that have been identified as low performing.
  2. To address potentially more students applying for admission to particular programs than can be accommodated, PPS will design an application process that promotes equity, diversity, and voluntary participation.
  3. PPS will implement a systemic effort to ensure the coordination of all related Federal and non-Federal programs.

One major goal of the PPS project is to foster various interdistrict partnerships related to student and parental choice. Partnerships are underway to address specific issues within PPS. The partnerships are aligned with the objectives of the project and include community organizations, institutions of higher education, and advocacy groups with specialized experience in serving a diverse student and family population.

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Last Modified: 11/21/2007