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

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

Aug 2017


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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:

  • College-prep schools offer a variety of options, including student-centered instructional approaches.
  • Charter schools offer a surprising diversity of enrichment activities.
  • Parent guides give very little useful information about schools’ approaches to student discipline.

Learn more about what CRPE researchers found in Denver, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C., and read their six recommendations for these and other urban districts to increase the quality and diversity of their schools and make it easier for families to find the right fit for their child.

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