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Making Smart Choices: How Schools Can Help Parents and Students

As the school choice movement gains steam in Washington, school leaders from coast to coast are starting to embrace a choice mindset.

Part of that process includes arming parents with reliable information so that they can make the best decisions for their children.

While the idea behind school choice seems simple (e.g. give parents the ability to choose the school experience that’s right for their child) how families eventually arrive at that choice is a nuanced, deeply layered process.

As new players, such as charters and other alternatives, arrive on the scene, parents are becoming more critical, deftly discerning between clever marketing and demonstrable proof of school or student success.

Translation: If schools, public or otherwise, want to keep students enrolled and engaged, they need to effectively state their case.

In a recent U.S. News and World Report article, Andrew McEachin and Laura S. Hamilton of RAND wrote that “the ability to make an informed choice in any context requires that parents or other family members have access to detailed information about the quality of school instruction, services and the overall school climate.”

Making anecdotal comparisons is easy. It’s assembling data and turning those numbers into evidence that’s harder to do.

Write McEachin and Hamilton, “schools need a valid, reliable and transparent system of measuring and collecting information on school performance, and a mechanism for making that information accessible and understandable to families.”

There are plenty of survey solutions out there. Technology is not the problem, they say.

“The difficulty is determining who will be responsible for collecting and analyzing this information and how to deliver it in a format that can be easily understood by families with diverse backgrounds.”

The commentary provides yet more evidence that schools need a stronger system for inviting, interpreting and sharing information about their success with the different members of their school community.

What steps are you taking to help families understand why your schools should be their first choice? Are you putting parents in a position to make the best possible decision for their child? Tell us in the comments.

Want more ideas about how to succeed in the age of choice? Read Why school climate is vital to school quality.