Thursday June 1, 2006

School Choice Made Easy

New resource developed with the aid of UD's School of Education and Allied Professions helps parents choose the best school for their child.

My School Chooser, a new resource designed to help parents make decisions about where to send their children to school, is now available in Dayton.

Dayton will be the first city in which parents have access to such a guide, which was developed in a partnership among GreatSchools.net; the University of Dayton; and the Thomas B. Fordham, Walton and Robertson foundations.

“In an environment of competition, we must educate parents about how to choose the best school for their children,” said Thomas J. Lasley, dean of UD’s School of Education and Allied Professions. “We need to help create an informed public.”

In the past several years, school choice options have multiplied in the city of Dayton with the opening of dozens of charter schools, and the My School Chooser guide profiles the city’s 62 public, private and charter schools. In addition, Dayton’s open-enrollment policy allows students residing in the Dayton Public School area to attend any school in the district. Good information will allow parents to take full advantage of all educational options.

The guide was distributed to Dayton Daily News subscribers who live in the city, and other copies soon will be available at other Dayton locations.

“Although a select few Dayton parents have been able to take advantage of educational options on a small scale, many don’t fully understand the school choices available to them,” said Tracie Craft of the Dayton-based Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). “With all of the new options available, it’s easy for parents to get confused and move from school to school. We need to help parents make a confident, informed decision based on the quality of the school and whether it is a good fit for their child.”

To help with that decision, My School Chooser walks parents and guardians through an easy-to-follow six-step process:

1.    Understand your options
2.    Learn to recognize school quality
3.    Recognize your child’s and family’s needs
4.    Study your options
5.    Be picky
6.    Get your questions answered

GreatSchools — an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve K-12 education by inspiring parents to get involved — learned through focus groups and research that parents need unbiased, quality information about schools. The My School Chooser guide explains the educational climate in Dayton, in addition to defining and clarifying such key terms as “voucher,” “adequate yearly progress” and “Ohio Graduation Test.” The school profiles in My School Chooser include test scores, as well as information about students and teachers, school facilities and safety, and academic and enrichment programs available at the school.

“This is an exciting new venture for us,” said Bill Jackson, founder of GreatSchools. “We have great data and information on our Web site, but we are continually looking for ways to get our resources to the parents who need it the most, particularly low-income parents who don’t generally use the Internet to find information.”

To supplement My School Chooser, GreatSchools will be hosting parent workshops with community partners, such as BAEO, to give parents one-on-one guidance in the school choice process. These workshops are meant to make the process easier for parents and to offer them support during the often-complicated task of choosing the right school.

For more information on the My School Chooser guide, visit www.greatschools.net or contact Meera Chary at 415-977-0700, ext. 113 or via e-mail at mchary@greatschools.net.