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Posted at 12:17 PM ET, 11/12/2012

What information do D.C. parents need as they’re choosing schools for their kids?

The school-choice movement in the District and across the country is built on the faith that parents are better equipped than anyone else to make decisions about their children’s education.

But for parents to make good decisions, they need good information. And maybe there isn’t enough good information easily available to parents who face a growing — some might say daunting — number of school choices in the nation’s capital.

That’s the argument that Don Soifer — a school-choice advocate and member of the D.C. Public Charter School Board — made in an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post.

Soifer points out the lack of hard data on something parents care deeply about: school safety. From his piece:

The District’s public safety officials are quick to reassure that “our schools are safe.” This does not clash with the general impression that readers of The Post or other news outlets receive.
But how safe is that? Compared with what?
DCPS school scorecards do include a line for safety, but they do not offer information about actual incidents. Instead, they include the results of a survey of students, parents and staff members about their perceptions of safety and order at each school. The survey is taken every two years. The average perception for a DCPS school is “65 percent safe,” and the largest high schools had scores between 50 percent and 65 percent.
Certainly this information has some value for parents. But does it show them how safe their child’s school actually is? As well as, say, data on the number of incidents in which safety was an issue?

Other jurisdictions do publish school-by-school information about incidents that affect school safety.

Soifer highlighted Virginia, where school report cards “list information such as the number of weapons offenses, disruptive-behavior offenses and offenses against both students and staff members that occur every school year, alongside the numbers for previous years.”

(To see how Virginia records safety stats on its school report cards, click here and scroll to the last page. This is the report for Fairfax County’s Annandale High School.)

I’d love to hear from parents: Would more information about school safety be useful to you?

What other data would you appreciate having as you choose schools for your kids: Teacher turnover rates? Length of the current principal’s tenure? Number of minutes of recess per week?

Update: Officials with the advocacy group Education Trust have put together a list of the kinds of school data they think parents need and should have.

The District provides very little of that information, the Education Trust found.

That list includes school safety measures and a bunch of other interesting data points, such as the percentage of teachers who are long-term substitutes or in their first year; the percentage of high school students enrolled in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other advanced courses; trends in per-pupil funding at each school; and the ratio of special education teachers to special education students.

This post has been updated since it was first published.

By  |  12:17 PM ET, 11/12/2012

Tags:  dc public schools

 
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