Encouraging integrated schools in the District of Columbia?

Encouraging integrated schools in the District of Columbia? A discussion on the merits and pitfalls of “controlled choice"

March 21, 2014 - 10:00 am to 11:30 am
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
1016 16th Street NW, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20036
United States


“Parents would express preferences among a cluster of schools, and an algorithm would make matches by balancing personal preferences with the shared civic goal of maximizing socioeconomic integration.”

That’s how controlled-choice zones would work in Washington, D.C., as suggested by Sam Chaltain, Richard Kahlenberg, and Michael Petrilli in a recent Washington Post op-ed. Why try such a policy in our nation’s capital? Many believe in the value of integrated schools and communities as tools for teaching tolerance, encouraging critical thinking, and strengthening our democracy. Some research shows that children of different socioeconomic backgrounds benefit from learning together.

But others argue that “controlled choice” isn’t all that different from the “forced busing” of yesteryear, in that it restricts families’ education options and imposes a top-down, government-run social-engineering scheme on school assignment policies. Some worry that it might also impede the economic revitalization of the city.

Join the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and The Century Foundation for a lively debate on the merits and pitfalls of controlled choice.

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Michael Alves
Educational Planner, Alves Educational Consultants Group
Chester E. Finn, Jr.
President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Heather Harding
Executive Director, EdCORE
Richard D. Kahlenberg
Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation


Michael Petrilli
Executive Vice President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute