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New Tool Maps School Attendance Zones Across U.S.

Forget the common core or teacher salaries. Attendance zones may be the education topic most guaranteed to launch a debate in any school district in the country.

More than 4 out of 5 U.S. students attend the schools to which they were assigned by neighborhood. Many districts make at least some attendance-zone changes every few years.

Understanding who goes to which area school and why may soon become a lot easier for education officials and community members alike. The U.S. Department of Educationplans to release the first nationwide map of school attendance boundaries this summer. Starting in November, school districts will be able to use an online tool to draw or upload their own maps and download or tweak existing maps.

In the process, districts will create the most detailed picture yet of how American schools define their communities. Education officials will also have new tools to plan new schools and transportation routes, and to identify equity problems across the district. In Georgia, for example, state education officials are considering using the data to track where foster children attend school. This could help the state provide more support for such students.