321 students have applied to new schools through Choice4LA pilot program
Sarah Favot | June 28, 2016
Parent Revolution announced Tuesday that it has helped 321 students apply to new, higher performing schools through its Choice4LA pilot program launched in January.
The program is aimed at helping low-income families navigate a complex system of school choice by providing information on all types of schools, helping parents choose the right school for their children and providing support through the application process. In total the group has engaged with 734 families as of last week.
The group also announced it has received a $50,000 grant from the California Community Foundation toward the effort.
Choice4LA has been focused on a pilot area in South Los Angeles where it has partnered with community groups to reach out to parents who are interested in finding other school options for their students.
Seth Litt, executive director of Parent Revolution, said there are many barriers for families to applying to high-performing schools, including a lack of transportation and sometimes no internet access at home.
Many parents don’t have the type of jobs where they can take time off to tour new schools, he said.
“A lot of families are effectively shut out of choice,” Litt said.
Many parents do not even know about the options available, he said.
“Either school choice information doesn’t reach them through traditional methods, or the process is so complex that they don’t actually exercise those choices for their children,” Litt said.
Of the families that have applied to new schools, 63 percent have applied to both charter schools and district schools, according to statistics provided by the group. Twenty-six percent of families have applied only to charter schools, and 11 percent have applied only to district schools.
Litt said for families, it doesn’t matter what kind of school it is.
“Families are just like, ‘Where is the best school for my child?’” Litt said.
Parents complete an average of four applications per student, he said.
One major barrier to parents being informed about different schools is that there is no central directory of schools, Litt said. Another challenge is that schools have their own applications and unique deadlines. And, finally, it is difficult to compare schools because right now there is no overall rating for schools. (The Academic Performance Index has been eliminated and the state Board of Education is still determining a new accountability system, which may include an overall rating.)
Parent Revolution is working on developing an online directory of schools, Litt said. He said he is encouraged by LA Unified’s interest in simplifying its application process, but said that should include charter schools.
“The simpler we can make this for families, the better,” Litt said.
He said he doesn’t believe the system is purposely complex but has developed that way accidentally and haphazardly over time.
The group has partnered with 45 community groups, including churches, government agencies like the Department of Children and Family Services, food banks and others to connect with families.
He said the group plans to expand the program based on where it has community partnerships.