Is School Choice Working for Marginalized Students?
Professor Katrina Bulkley is studying how school choice supports the varied and complex needs of students.
While “school choice” can offer students the opportunity to attend schools — such as magnet and charter schools — other than local public schools, it is unclear whether current choice options are significantly improving education outcomes for disadvantaged students.
Counseling and Educational Leadership Professor Katrina Bulkley is a member of a core team of researchers from around the nation that has secured a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to explore how school choice is working for minority, low-income, English-language learner, special education and other disadvantaged students. She has received part of $170,000 sub-award to support her work on the team’s five-year REACH (National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice) project.
“This center goes far beyond asking questions as to whether different forms of choice policies are good or bad,” Bulkley says. “Instead, we’re asking how school choice — alongside other changes in policies and practice — can best be utilized to support the varied and complex needs of students from historically marginalized populations.”
We’re asking how school choice — alongside other changes in policies and practice — can best be utilized to support the varied and complex needs of students from historically marginalized populations.”
While Bulkley is involved in the overall qualitative research in nationwide locations that connects with the project’s five “policy levers” — planning and oversight, transportation, enrollment systems, information and teachers — she will focus specifically on the District of Columbia and Florida.
She is also co-leading the team’s study of the authorizers who approve and oversee charter schools. “Since many charter schools serve students and families from critically underserved groups, understanding the role of authorizers overall and in serving these groups is especially important as the reach of charter schools grows.” Bulkley notes that University students will be involved in analyzing charter school applications.
Bulkley expects the team will uncover specific contexts where choice is related to a positive impact on disadvantaged students. “For example, high-quality authorizing practices may be connected to higher-quality schools,” she explains.
After five years of study by REACH, Bulkley anticipates that, “policy makers at all levels will have access to concrete research-based policy practices and that some of them will act on those recommendations.”