Are City Schools Becoming Monolithic? Analyzing the Diversity of Options in Denver, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C.

Betheny Gross, Colleen McCann, Shannon Murtagh and Christine Campbell::

As school choice grows in America’s cities, more district leaders are adopting a portfolio approach, giving schools greater autonomy and families more choices while still ensuring accountability. However, some community advocates are concerned that the new school options are not diverse enough to meet students’ needs. For instance, are the pressures of implementing accountability measures forcing districts to offer just two types of schools: traditional public schools and “no excuses” college-prep charter schools?

Given these concerns, and the importance of providing distinct options for an effective choice system, CRPE researchers analyzed school offerings in Denver, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C., to see just how diverse or homogenous the cities’ portfolios really are.

Using publicly available data, their research showed a diversity of school offerings in each district. However, it also revealed why many families aren’t aware of the array of curriculum, instructional approaches, and enrichment activities available. Researchers discovered, for example:

Locally, Madison lacks K-12 Governance Diversity.

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Preporatory Academy IB Charter School.

Madison spends more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student, while tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.