New York Rated Tops in Nation for School Choice

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A new report rates New York No. 1 in the nation when it comes to school choice, finding that it provided the most freedom to students and parents and the most relevant information on educational performance, The New York Times reports on Wednesday.

But New York still received only a B on the A to F scale used by the Brookings Institution of its evaluation of school choice options. The institution said the city provided the least useful online information for comparing schools and that other districts offered students better virtual-school options and had easier Web sites to understand and navigate.

Sam Dillon of The New York Times says of the report, which was published online Wednesday:

Brookings, which has advocated expanded choices for students, rated districts in 13 categories, including availability of charter, magnet and affordable private schools; policies on virtual education; and “restructuring or closing unpopular schools.” Grover Whitehurst, a senior fellow at Brookings who developed the index, said districts were allowed to “put their best foot forward” and be judged on a particular aspect of their system — in New York, for example, officials showcased the process for assigning students to high schools.

Under the Bloomberg administration, New York has greatly expanded the choices for parents and students, believing that they should have options, particularly if their local school is performing poorly. And the city has created a multitude of new, smaller high schools, giving students a vast array of choices of location, program, sizes and specialization.

But some parents say that the choices are overwhelming and that the system is difficult to navigate for even the most sophisticated parent and student.

The subject will be explored next week in SchoolBook's debut community forum, "School Choice: Too Much of a Good Thing?" Brian Lehrer of WNYC will interview Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott and moderate a panel of SchoolBook writers and other involved parents and educators.

The event will take place Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. at Memorial Hall on the campus of the Pratt Institute in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

The event is free but you need a ticket. Register at

Sam Dillon also reports in The New York Times on Wednesday that the economic crisis is becoming increasingly visible in the nation's schools, where more and more students are becoming eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

The number of students receiving subsidized lunches rose to 21 million last school year from 18 million in 2006-7, a 17 percent increase, according to an analysis by The New York Times of data from the Department of Agriculture, which administers the meals program. Eleven states, including Florida, Nevada, New Jersey and Tennessee, had four-year increases of 25 percent or more, huge shifts in a vast program long characterized by incremental growth.

According to the data by the Department of Agriculture, all 50 states have shown increases in subsidized lunch eligibility.

And on Tuesday, we cited an article in The Daily News about a state proposal to "super size," as The News puts it, the English exams fourth to eighth graders take in the spring. On Wednesday, The News reports that the state has done an about-face and will no longer move ahead with the proposal to expand the testing to 245 minutes over two days.

Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said that officials are now considering input from teachers and parents before they roll out a new testing schedule.

“That is our normal protocol. It should’ve been followed and it wasn’t,” said Tompkins, who added that a new testing schedule would be announced in the coming weeks.

Here is what is going on in education on Wednesday:

The 92nd Street Y will host an event for 3,200 K-3 students on Wednesday and Thursday, featuring Natalie Merchant. Ms. Merchant has developed a concert specifically for those students, with the 92Y Musical Introductions outreach series. The 92Y says: "The concert is based on her 2010 album "Leave Your Sleep," a collection of children's poetry, old and new, that she set to music — initially for her daughter. She'll even set a couple of kids' poems to music and invite them up on stage to soak in the love."

And the Learning Network's student opinion question of the day:

Do Photoshopped Images Make You Feel Bad About Your Own Looks? The question is off an article in the Business section, “Photoshopped or Not? A Tool to Tell.”

The Learning Network is also promoting a lesson that helps students think through why, how and to whom to “give” this season that is based on reporting for The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year: 100 Years of Help: Creative Ideas for Giving Inspired by the Neediest Cases Fund.