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GreatSchools Local Empowers Parents With Information and Coaching

October 25, 2012
Walton Family Foundation investment in GreatSchools yields families applying to higher-performing schools in Milwaukee and Washington, D.C.

BENTONVILLE, ARK., October 25, 2012 – The majority of parents and guardians who have access to school quality information and coaching from GreatSchools visit more schools and apply to enroll their children in higher-performing schools in Milwaukee, Wisc. and Washington, D.C., according to an internal survey conducted by GreatSchools. The Walton Family Foundation has invested nearly $10.2 million in GreatSchoolsin the last five years, including $700,000 that enabled the organization to advance its local programs in Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. and begin serving families in Indianapolis, Ind.

In total, nearly 16,000 families in Milwaukee and nearly 8,700 in Washington, D.C. utilized the direct coaching or support programs offered by GreatSchools Local in 2011-12. GreatSchools Local is the parent information and coaching program arm of GreatSchools, the national nonprofit and leading source of information on school performance for parents. The organization’s website,, is used by 41 million unique visitors each year, including nearly half of all American families with school-age children.

“GreatSchools is successfully connecting families with the information they need to make informed choices about their children’s education,” said Bill Jackson, GreatSchools founder and CEO. “Because of the great relationships we have been able to build with local partners in these communities, we are seeing parents enrolling their children in higher-performing schools. This progress would not have been possible without the support and investment from the Walton Family Foundation.”

The survey, conducted by GreatSchools in July, 2012 and sponsored in part by the Walton Family Foundation, polled more than 500 GreatSchools Local program participants. In Washington, D.C., 65 percent of respondents reported visiting two or more schools, and 75 percent applied to at least one high-quality school option for their child, according to GreatSchools ranking system. In Milwaukee, 62 percent of respondents visited two or more schools and 95 percent reported that they applied to at least one high-quality school option, up 20 percent from the year before.

The organization’s own findings coincide with additional preliminary research from the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University, which will be released in a peer-reviewed journal in 2013. In Washington D.C., for example, parents that received information or direct coaching from GreatSchools Local were more likely to enroll their children in higher-quality schools for the 2011-12 school year.

“An informed parent is a better advocate for their child,” said Ed Kirby, Senior Program Officer at the Walton Family Foundation. “These findings demonstrate that parents are making more informed choices about their child’s education with the information and coaching that GreatSchools offers.”

The Walton Family Foundation invests in organizations and programs that empower parents, particularly in low-income communities, to choose among quality educational options for their children. Foundation investments have also enabled GreatSchools to launch a new local field office in Indianapolis in 2012. There, program partners distributed 15,000 2012-2013 Indianapolis School Chooser guidesin English and Spanish at hundreds of locations across the city. The 140-page guide contains information about local school options, including traditional public, public charter and private schools.

GreatSchools Local programs rely heavily on local partners to ensure parents receive information about school quality and choice options. More than 260 organizations and hundreds of schools partner with them in Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Washington D.C. and distribute School Chooser guides. In addition, GreatSchools Local staff trains employees at more than 100 of these organizations to serve as ‘coaches’ who can educate parents about different school options for their child.

In all three cities, parents can choose among multiple school options to find the best school for their child. The number of students enrolled in public charter schools or private schools with the support of publicly-funded vouchers is on the rise in Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. These publicly-funded choice options are often experiencing greater academic success than local traditional public schools. For example, in Washington, D.C., charter schools have a 21 percent higher graduation rate compared to D.C. Public Schools and in Milwaukee, students enrolled in private schools with the financial support of vouchers are 18 percent more likely to graduate from high school than their peers in Milwaukee Public Schools.