01 02 03 Institute for Effective Education, University of York: The reader-friendliness of school-choice guides 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

The reader-friendliness of school-choice guides

In order for parents to make a considered choice of school they need to have a clear understanding of their options. In the US, districts produce written guides for parents describing each school’s attributes, but parent interviews and surveys have shown that these guides are not often used. In order to assess their usefulness, researchers at Johns Hopkins University examined the reader-friendliness of school-choice guides across a sample of several urban districts.

The US Department of Education recommends that text for parents be written at the sixth- to eighth-grade level (age 11-13), as parents in deprived urban areas often have reduced literacy levels. However, researchers found that none of the guides were written at the recommended level; all were at secondary reading levels, or higher. Furthermore, sentences were lengthy and written with complex grammatical structuring, which may be confusing to parents with reduced reading comprehension due to low literacy levels or who speak English as a second language.

Researchers made several recommendations, such as write in the active voice, increase print size and white space, and increase the readability of the guides.

Source: The Readability and Complexity of District-Provided School-Choice Information (2015), Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 20(3).

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