Public School Choice in the District of Columbia: A Descriptive Analysis

Research Report

Public School Choice in the District of Columbia: A Descriptive Analysis

April 29, 2011

Abstract

Increasing parental choice has been a leading theme of recent education policy intended to enhance the academic achievement of low-performing students in the United States. These policies aim to "level the playing field" in access to high-quality education for disadvantaged students who cannot otherwise afford higher-quality schooling options. Public school choice programs in D.C. are successful; disadvantaged students are able to attend higher-performing schools than their neighborhood public schools, even with prolonged commutes. Overall, the findings provide evidence that the relatively advantaged students are taking advantage of public school choice programs. However, choice exacerbates student quality disparities between low- and high-poverty schools, casting some doubt on the benefits of such programs.

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