School choice is a highly controversial topic in Massachusetts' educational policy circles these days. In recent years, the Commonwealth has offered students and their families a variety of school choice options, but very little funding has been dedicated to studying the impact, availability and enrollment trends of school choice. As a result, policymakers are forced to shape a policy agenda based upon conjecture rather than evidence.
The Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy, with the support of the Boston Foundation, commissioned this school choice mapping research to fill the informational gap. With this study, prepared by the researchers at the University of Massachusetts' Center for Education Policy, we seek to provide independently gathered evidence to better inform policymakers and researchers and to draw attention to policy issues that require further attention and investigation. We believe that school choice will continue to play a central role in the education reform debate and that this initial mapping is essential to display and benchmark current school choice phenomena while providing a basis for future trend analysis.
This report describes the various school choice options in Massachusetts and details the extent to which each school choice option is available and exercised. School choice options that were examined include:
- Charter schools
- Private and parochial schools
- Inter-district school choice
- Vocational options
- Intra-district school choice
- Special education programs
To the extent possible using current data, the report includes:
- Information on the national context;
- Statewide information on utilization of each of the options; and
- In-depth look at school choice dynamics in the metropolitan Boston area.
This report is intended to provide baseline data, rather than in-depth analysis of the status of school choice in Massachusetts. In addition, this report contains a policy brief that highlights the impact of trends in student enrollment and the availability of school choice in the Commonwealth.