Behind the Numbers: The Story of SES and Choice
The issue of participation in these services is about more than math. One potential reason for the participation rates (17 percent in SES and 1 percent in choice) is that districts are doing a poor job of informing parents that their children qualify for SES and choice. That's what advocates for those services say.
Research in last week's reports suggest that they may be right. Fewer than a third of districts notified parents before the beginning of the school year that their children were eligibile to transfer, according to research conducted by the RAND Corp. that was included in the report. On the SES side, RAND found that 27 percent of parents reported that they hadn't been notified about their children's eligibility for tutoring through the SES program. (RAND put out a press release summarizing its findings.)
Communication may not be the main reason for the low participation rates. Eduwonkette lists the reasons why many parents aren't interested in exercising their choice options. Parents are satisfied with their neighborhood schools, she says. I hear from school officials that it's difficult to get kids interested in the tutoring, even if it is free.
The Department of Education is trying to increase participation in SES and choice. States participating in the growth-model project must explain what steps they'll take to promote those programs. States in the "differentiated accountability" project will have to do the same. But those projects reach a relatively small number of states.
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has addressed growth models, differentiated accountability, and high school graduation rates. Will SES and choice be next?