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What happens when high schoolers are given school options?

When high schoolers are given school options

By Laura Checovich
May 20, 2019

Each summer, more than 348,000 Hoosier teens eagerly await their first day of high school. Although most students will attend their local public high school, the Indiana Choice Scholarships Program gives nearly 20,000 students financial support to attend a participating private high school. An additional 23,500 students enroll in public charter high schools.

However, little is known about how well different types of high schools are preparing Indiana students for college. In response to that need, Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest, in partnership with the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) and the Indiana Management Performance Hub, is conducting a study to analyze the high school completion and early college success outcomes associated with the three types of Indiana high schools—traditional public high schools, public charter high schools, and private high schools participating in the Indiana Choice program.

REL Midwest researchers have a unique opportunity with this study because Indiana law requires that all private schools in the voucher program participate in state standardized testing and other state reporting. As a result, the study will be one of the nation’s first to consider a broad set of college and career readiness outcomes across the traditional public, charter, and private school sectors.

In recent years, Indiana has invested significantly in increasing the college and career readiness of its students by requiring high schools to offer a more rigorous curriculum. Indiana’s voucher program was initiated in the 2011/12 school year and has grown to become the largest in the nation, serving more than 36,000 students from families with low and moderate incomes. Most students receive scholarships large enough to cover the full tuition and fees at their private school of choice. Megan Austin, Ph.D., the lead REL Midwest researcher on the study, notes that “Indiana has really invested in creating a robust set of options across school sectors, and now they want to understand outcomes across all those sectors.”

In addition to shedding light on high school completion and early college success outcomes, IDOE will use the study’s findings to identify which high school programs succeed at promoting college and career readiness and the potential reasons for success, says Cole Dietrich, IDOE assistant director of Charter Schools and Special Programs. According to Dietrich, Indiana “wants to study those interventions or processes that work and figure out ... how we could scale and implement [them] across sectors.”

Dr. Austin and her team are hard at work on their analysis for the study, and the findings are slated for publication in 2020. Learn more.

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Author Information

Laura Checovich Staff Picture

Laura Checovich

Communications Associate | REL Midwest


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