School Choice, School Quality and Postsecondary Attainment
The evaluation of school-choice programs has largely been relegated to the elementary and middle school levels, where student-test data are more readily available. How these programs affect students’ high school achievement—and their college-going and college-completion rates—has proven difficult to measure. This NBER paper begins to fill that research void, taking a first look at the outcomes of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMS) open-enrollment initiative, which began in 2001. Researchers linked student-level CMS administrative data for close to 20,000 high schoolers to data from the National Student Clearinghouse, which deals with college enrollment. Their findings tack a gold-star on the chest of intradistrict choice: Students who won the lottery to attend a better school outside their own neighborhood closed about 75 percent of the black-white high school-graduation gap—and about 23 percent of the college-completion gap. Within the lottery-winner population, GPA, attendance rates, and math-course completion rates also improved. Importantly, analysts found no evidence of “cream skimming” among the lottery winners, randomly selected from the near 50 percent of CMS students who applied for out-of-bounds placements. The takeaway? Given the right school environment, student achievement can improve, and high school is not too late. Too bad CMS put the brakes on this program in 2008-09.
|Click to listen to commentary on this NBER report from the Education Gadfly Show podcast.
David J. Deming, Justine S. Hastings, Thomas J. Kane, and Douglas O. Staiger, “School Choice, School Quality and Postsecondary Attainment,” (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, September 2011).
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