The gift of data, part II: Getting comfortable with parent choice

Almost 60% of public school students in our district attend “schools of choice” – schools that require an application to gain admittance.

After posting “The gift of data” a few weeks ago, a reader suggested it would be valuable to break down school enrollment by public school type -KCPS Neighborhood, KCPS Signature, and Charter – to see what those numbers are doing.

I agree! Here are the enrollment numbers for the 2011/12 through 2015/16 school years, broken down accordingly. (Click here for a bigger, easier to read version of these numbers + graphs.)

The total enrollment trend line for this five-year period is flat. After taking a dip in 2012/13, charter school enrollment grew the most. KCPS neighborhood school enrollment, after a significant drop in 2013/14, began to rebound; and KCPS signature school enrollment declined overall.

But what’s most striking to me, when you break these numbers out by school type and do the math, is that more than half of all public school students in our school district attend either a public charter school or a KCPS signature school.

Yes, that’s right – almost 60% of students attend public schools that require an application to gain admittance. Or, put another way, more than half of public school students in our district attend “schools of choice”.

Of course KCPS signature schools are not charter schools – like neighborhood schools, they operate under the KCPS umbrella and are governed by the KCPS School Board.

But, like charters, they 1) require an application to attend – parents and/or students must be motivated to apply; and 2) enroll students from across the district (in contrast to neighborhood schools, where enrollment is assigned based on where you live).

These are, it’s worth noting, enrollment practices for which charter schools are frequently criticized. But, here’s the thing: signature schools practice them, too.

The fact is, the majority of us who have children in public schools in this district have actually chosen where our kids go to school. Acknowledging this fact goes a long way, I think, to helping us get more comfortable with parent choice.



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