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School Chooser Guide's goal is to help parents navigate choice

The School Chooser Guide is available at libraries, Kroger stores and online.
The School Chooser Guide is available at libraries, Kroger stores and online.
Shaina Cavazos

Parents of the roughly 130,000 children who live in city of Indianapolis have lots of school choices.

The city has more than 180 traditional public schools, more than 35 charter schools and more than 65 private schools. Most of the private schools also accept publicly funded tuition vouchers for poor families.

That’s a lot of options, and the goal of the School Chooser Guide is to help families navigate them.

The guide, in its third year, now goes even beyond Marion County, including suburban schools and preschools. There are profiles for more than 600 schools, with information ranging from the basics, like school addresses and principal names, to detailed data like test scores and graduation rates. It comes in Spanish and English and can be found at public libraries, Kroger stores and online.

Mayor Greg Ballard announced the chooser guide, which is produced by a partnership of the city and the website, last week. Training sessions for parents are now underway.

“When parents find out about high quality school options, it can be a transformative experience for the family,” said Jason Kloth, deputy mayor for education.

GreatSchools was started in San Francisco in 1990 by a former teacher with the goal of helping people who moved to the area find information about local schools. It has since moved online, providing information about schools across America.

Indianapolis is one of a few cities where the group has experimented with a paper guide. Generally, it aims for cities with active school choice environments and partnerships.

Indianapolis certainly qualifies, with 11 school districts, a fast growing cadre of charter schools and one of the nation’s biggest voucher programs.

Several studies undertaken in cities with many school choice options have shown that parents don’t always choose schools based on academic factors, such as test scores or A-to-F grades. Instead, they frequently pick schools without seeing that data, a choice often based on the recommendations of friends and family or because of convenience factors, such as schools that are closer to their homes or after-school care.

To try to better educate parents, GreatSchools is holding free training sessions to learn how best to use the guide. They will be held on the following dates:

  • Nov. 3, Nov. 10 and Nov. 17 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the public library’s Irvington Branch, 5625 E. Washington St.
  • Nov. 4 and Nov. 18 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the public library’s Eagle Branch, 3325 Lowry Road.
  • Nov. 4 and Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the public library’s East 38th Street Branch, 5420 E. 38th St.
  • Nov. 5 and Nov. 12 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the public library’s Nora Branch, 8628 Guilford Ave.
  • Nov. 6 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the The Children’s Museum, 3000 N. Meridian St.

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