In collaboration with multiple foundations, Parent Revolution’s Choice4LA program released its first report on how and why low-income families exercise public school choice in Los Angeles, entitled “Choosing Quality: Creating Equitable Access to Great Schools For All Los Angeles Families.” In gathering data throughout the 2015-2016 year, Choice4LA engaged over 1,000 families with school choice information and directly supported over 400 students in submitting school applications. While providing support to families as they tried to find great schools and great opportunities for their children, Choice4LA also learned more about families and their experience with school choice. They were able to gather data about what families have access to in terms of their school options, their motivation for seeking access to school choice, where they collect information, what they hope to find in a school and what challenges and barriers they identify in their search for a quality school.
Data demonstrates that there are almost 300,000 families making use of school choice in Los Angeles, yet there are still over 160,000 students attending chronically, low-performing schools. Unfortunately, the majority of these students are students of color and from low-income backgrounds. And even when over two/thirds of families in Los Angeles are exercising choice, there are several key challenges that continue to serve as barriers for families seeking choice in providing their children access to a quality education. Amongst these barriers are: the absence of clear and comparable school information, too many applications and deadlines, lack of transportation, and too few high quality options.
The report further adds important insights learned from families attempting to access school choice. Seven lessons that surfaced were:
- Most families get information on their school options through interpersonal relationships rather than online research.
- Families need and want better access to school quality information.
- Families are looking for customized, individualized support.
- Non-profits and community organizations are being underutilized and are uniquely well positioned to provide that support.
- Many families who have never attempted to exercise choice will do so if provided support.
- Families are motivated to explore school choice for a wide variety of reasons.
- There are not enough quality schools to meet parent demand.
The report concluded with four major recommendations for both the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Los Angeles charter school sector to implement in order to increase accessibility to quality school choices for all families.
Key Recommendations include:
- Focus On Quality Choices, Not Just Choice;
- Simplify At All Steps Of The Process;
- Improve Access to School Quality Data for Families
- Strengthening the role that interpersonal networks play in supporting families as they choose schools for their children.
Executive Director of Parent Revolution, Seth Litt, shared that the intent of this report was to help “refocus the conversation on specific changes and improvements that can significantly increase the number of students who have access to a great public education,” rather than continue being part of ideological battles.
The Choice4LA Program is now in its second year and is working with more than forty community partners, with the goal of expanding its impact and reach to thousands of additional families in South Los Angeles.
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