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Wednesday, 30th September 2009

Matchmaking: Enabling Mandatory Public School Choice in New York and Boston

Matchmaking: Enabling Mandatory Public School Choice in New York and Boston
Source: Education Sector

From tuition vouchers for private schools to charter schools to voluntary transfer programs within and between public school systems, school choice has been at the center of the school reform debate for two decades. But with the voucher movement unable to sustain much momentum, charter schools still serving a small percentage of the nation's students with mixed results, and the public school choice system in the federal No Child Left Behind Act plagued by low participation rates, New York City's public high school selection system stands out as a model strategy for harnessing the power of the marketplace to better serve students' diverse educational interests and needs and to stimulate improvement through competition for students.

The school system has sponsored choice on a scale unprecedented in public education by requiring each of its eighth-graders to select schools. And, along with the Boston school system, which has also made choice mandatory, it has adopted computer software that allows it to place students in the schools on their lists far more efficiently and fairly than most public school choice programs.

As a result, the choice systems in New York and Boston, though not without challenges, have stimulated a new entrepreneurialism among many public educators, improved the perception of public education among middle-class families, and served as a catalyst for school reform by providing a rationale for taking action in schools that fail to compete successfully for students. They can be powerful engines of urban school reform and valuable prototypes for other cities working to match more students with schools of choice.

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