A 1999 Michigan State University study mapped participation in Schools of Choice by district across the entire state. That map is reproduced in Graphic 5 — districts shaded in color participated in Schools of Choice for at least one year from 1996 to 1998. As shown, districts participating in Schools of Choice were concentrated in Michigan’s more sparsely populated areas: the Upper Peninsula and in the “thumb” region. Only a few districts in the more densely populated areas — southeastern Michigan, for example — opted to participate in Schools of Choice.

Graphic 5: District Participation in Schools of Choice,
1996-1998

Graphic 5: District Participation in Schools of Choice, 1996-1998 - click to enlarge

Source: Arsen, et al., “School Choice Policies in Michigan: The Rules Matter” (1999).

A decade later, district participation in Schools of Choice looked very different as it spread geographically throughout the state. Graphic 6 shows Schools of Choice participation for the 2011-12 school year. Districts in the lightest color green reported receiving fewer than 5 percent of their enrollment from Schools of Choice, while districts shaded in darker colors reported receiving between 5 and 10 percent, 10 and 25 percent or more than 25 percent of their enrollment through Schools of Choice.

Districts colored white either did not receive any students through Schools of Choice during the 2011-12 school year, or there was no Schools of Choice information available for them. A large swath of districts in western Michigan do not participate in Schools of Choice, and instead participate in a cooperative choice program run by the Kent County ISD.[40]

Graphic 6: Percentage of Students Enrolled Through Schools of Choice by District, 2011-12

Graphic 6: Percentage of Students Enrolled Through Schools of Choice by District, 2011-12 - click to enlarge

Source: Center for Educational Performance and Information.

Schools of Choice participation is most prevalent in rural districts, as shown in Graphic 7, though a majority of all Michigan districts reported receiving at least one student through Schools of Choice during the 2011-12 school year.[*] Schools of Choice participation appears to increase for districts that are located in more remote areas. About two-thirds of city districts, three-quarters of suburban districts, 86 percent of town districts and 89 percent of rural districts reported receiving Schools of Choice students.

While 22 suburban districts (16 percent), four town districts (5 percent) and 43 rural districts (15 percent) reported that more than a quarter of their students were enrolled through Schools of Choice, no city district reported as high of a level of Schools of Choice participation. Although two-thirds of city districts participated in Schools of Choice, most did so to a limited extent: 40 percent of those that participated had less than 5 percent of student enrollment come from Schools of Choice. By contrast, one-third of rural districts reported that 10 to 25 percent of their enrollment came from Schools of Choice. The same was true for about a quarter of both suburban and town districts.

Graphic 7: District Participation in Schools of Choice by Locale Type, 2011-12

Graphic 7: District Participation in Schools of Choice by Locale Type, 2011-12 - click to enlarge

Source: Center for Educational Performance and Information, National Center for Education Statistics. Includes only conventional school districts.

More students in rural districts participate in Schools of Choice than any other locale group. Nearly 10 percent of students in rural districts are attending districts through Schools of Choice, compared to 7 percent of town students, 8 percent of suburban students, and just 3 percent of city students. However, since so many students are attending suburban districts, in terms of absolute numbers suburban students account for nearly 60 percent of all Michigan students making use of Schools of Choice.

Graphic 8: Enrollment in Schools of Choice by Locale Type, 2011-12

Locale

SOC Enrollment

Total Enrollment

Percentage

City

8,849

316,849

2.8%

Suburb

49,315

619,106

8.0%

Town

12,328

185,312

6.7%

Rural

28,805

298,205

9.7%

Source: Center for Educational Performance and Information, National Center for Education Statistics. Totals reflect only enrollment for districts identified as city, suburb, town or rural districts. Totals do not include cooperative choice programs.


[*]  To analyze Schools of Choice participation by locale, districts were matched with locale codes generated by the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES locale codes use school address and U.S. Census data to place schools and districts in urban, suburban, town or rural categories. “Identification of Rural Locales” (National Center for Education Statistics), accessed Oct. 24, 2013, http://goo.gl/YTpOF. City and suburban districts are closer to dense, urbanized areas, while town and rural districts are further away. Detailed descriptions of each NCES locale category are included in Appendix A: Locale Codes.