A Closer Look: How Colorado Families Access School Choice Via Open Enrollment
October 25, 2018

When it comes to school choice, attention is rarely paid to the many thousands of students taking advantage of public school options through open enrollment laws across the country.  

In Colorado, over 145,000 students use open enrollment programs to attend the traditional district-run school of their choice, thanks to the 1990 enactment of the “Public School Choice Act”. Recently, Ready Colorado released a report that highlights this program and takes a deep dive into the data, revealing trends around geography, demographics, and the impact of enrollment patterns on school performance.

In their report, Open Doors, Open Districts, the authors examine three specific districts within Colorado to diagnose how families experience existing policy. Through this research, they are able to identify three key components that contribute to a family’s ability access to high-quality options through open enrollment:

  • A system that is designed to be family friendly and not overly burdensome for parents to navigate.
  • Communication to parents about their enrollment options, including school level performance data.
  • Ensuring that all students have equal access, especially those students from low-income backgrounds and who are zoned for underperforming schools.

The report also gives recommendations to policymakers on how to make the program even more effective:

  • Make enrollment timelines more consistent;
  • Better inform parents of the options for their kids;
  • Improve transparency and accessibility of information for parents;
  • Prioritize stability for students;
  • Encourage creative solutions to transportation barriers, including eliminating regulatory roadblocks; and
  • Offer more information for school district leaders.

Want to hear more about the work at Ready Colorado or find more information on open enrollment policies? Reach out.

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