How Are American Cities Delivering on the Promise of Public School Choice?


How Are American Cities Delivering on the Promise of Public School Choice?

5 Trends in Cities with Public School Choice

CRPE researchers have been tracking education strategies across 18 cities to help policymakers, system leaders, and funders understand how cities with public school choice are progressing in their efforts to provide a quality education to all students.

The cities in our two-year analysis differ in size and location, but all have adopted at least some elements of a portfolio strategy, a problem-solving framework designed to ensure that all students can access a high-quality education and that the system is nimble enough to address changing student and system needs.

We conducted 195 interviews with district and charter leaders, funders, and community and civic organizations—and surveyed 400 parents in 7 cities—to identify progress and challenges across a dozen indicators.

In the following videos, Georgia Heyward, Christine Campbell, and Sean Gill discuss 5 trends we identified in the 2017-18 school year.


In the introduction to our Stepping Up 2018 report, which examines 18 cities offering public school choice, coauthor Georgia Heyward discusses cities’ educational progress, five distinct trends, and recommendations for district and charter leaders and funders.

1. More cities have information guides and simplified enrollment

In the first finding from our Stepping Up 2018 report, coauthor Georgia Heyward explains that more cities have school information guides and simplified enrollment, but they still need family supports.

2. Parent groups are engaging on better openings and closings

Lead author Christine Campbell discusses the second finding from our Stepping Up 2018 report: Parent-led groups are engaging on school openings and closings, but more cities need strong parent groups.

3. Districts increasingly value autonomy for school improvement

In the third finding from our Stepping Up 2018 report, lead author Christine Campbell explains that districts value autonomy to improve their schools, but they struggle with remissioning and don’t hire with autonomy in mind.

4. Charter schools continue to face barriers

Research analyst Sean Gill describes the fourth finding from our Stepping Up 2018 report: Charter schools continue to face barriers regarding facilities, politics, and state policies, and they need to improve their turnaround and talent strategies.

5. New accountability structures mean cities are collecting plenty of data

In the fifth and final finding from Stepping Up 2018, Georgia Heyward reports that cities are collecting data but are not currently using it to inform accountability or supply decisions, and she lists key recommendations for districts, charters, and funders to spur improvement.

For a full analysis of cross-city issues, see our 2017 report, Stepping Up: How are American Cities Delivering on the Promise of School Choice.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education is a research and policy analysis center at the University of Washington Bothell developing systemwide solutions for K–12 public education. Questions? Email