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New Orleans, New York City Top List of Friendliest Cities for School Choice

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The New Orleans Recovery school district, the New York City school system, and the Orleans Parish school system top the list of the friendliest environments for school choice and competition, according to the latest report measuring those factors by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.

The Washington-based think tank assigns letter grades to 107 school districts throughout the country based on a variety of factors such as the types of school choice available (vouchers, charter schools, tax-credit scholarships, etc.), the presence of virtual schools, school funding, how students are assigned to schools, and how students apply to schools of their choice, among other factors.

This year, the New Orleans Recovery school district received an A, the 1.1-million student New York City school system received an A- (up from a B+ last year), and the Orleans Parish school system received an A- (up from a B- last year). The school districts in Houston, Denver, and Minneapolis all received B grades, followed by the District of Columbia, San Diego, Tucson, Chicago, Baltimore city, and Milwaukee, which all received the grade of B-.

Thirty-four districts received an F on the index, indicating that "zip code assignment and other policies antithetical to choice still represent standard operating procedure for many school districts across the country," wrote Grover Whitehurst and Sarah Whitfield in their analysis of this year's findings.

The report found that most districts demonstrated little movement on the index from year-to-year with the exception of Denver, which moved from 24th to 5th place this year, mostly because of its introduction of a common application process for all public schools there.

To create the index, researchers at the Brown Center rely on data from the National Center for Education Statistics. To fill in the gaps for data that is not tracked by the NCES, the researchers use information from school districts' websites and interviews with district staff, the report says.

House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) will be joined with Russ Whitehurst today at an event at the Brookings Institution to talk about the results of the index as well as school choice more broadly. Stay tuned to the blog for our take on the conversation later this afternoon.

Follow @EWKatieAsh to keep up with the latest school choice and charter school news on Twitter. 

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