Cleveland Launches Campaign to Educate Parents on School Choice

Although the school choice movement has broadened the number of education opportunities available to students, it left some parents adrift when it came to deciding which schools would provide the best educational environment for their kids. To help them, last year Cleveland Ohio Mayor Frank Jackson created the Transformation Alliance, a special panel charged with helping parents navigate school options.

Now, just two months before the next academic year is scheduled to kick off, TA and Jackson have jointly announced a six-week informational campaign aimed at families to let them know how their local schools are doing to improve student outcomes. Parents will also learn what grades schools have earned on the last round of state assessments and how families can pick the best school for their children.

Fliers detailing school choices for each of 10 neighborhoods in the city will be available at libraries, churches, community centers and through a limited mailing.

The fliers will list both district schools and high-performing charter schools — schools that are privately run, but publicly funded.

Jackson said the goal is to “guide [parents] in a way that allows them to make a better choice.”

Alan Rosskamm, a charter school executive working with the new panel, said that about 60 percent of parents in the city have not yet selected the school their child will attend in the fall.

“We have a real opportunity to get them the information they need to help them make an informed choice,” he said.

Patrick O’Donnell of The Ohio Plain Dealer reports that the campaign is the culminating step in Jackson’s plan to increase by 300% the number of students enrolled in the best performing schools in the city, both traditional public and charter schools as part of the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools passed by the state legislature last year. The launch date of the campaign was set to coincide with the one-year anniversary of signing of the Cleveland Plan into law by Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Eric Gordon, the chief executive officer of the Cleveland school district, said the Transformation Alliance is still new so this year’s school choice campaign is small. He expects they will expand in the future.

Families, Gordon said, need to be in the habit of actively making school decisions, not just settling for wherever students are assigned. He said families should seek high-performing schools, or decide to stay in lower-rated ones if it fits the student or family better for safety, social, transportation or other reasons.

“As long as a family is making an active decision, I’m OK with that,” Gordon said.