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The Problems of Disadvantaged YouthAn Economic Perspective$
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Jonathan Gruber

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226309453

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226309477.001.0001

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Is Gaining Access to Selective Elementary Schools Gaining Ground?

Is Gaining Access to Selective Elementary Schools Gaining Ground?

Evidence from Randomized Lotteries

(p.43) 2 Is Gaining Access to Selective Elementary Schools Gaining Ground?
The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth

Julie Berry Cullen

Brian A. Jacob

University of Chicago Press

The importance of school quality is an open question. This chapter provides new evidence on whether expanded access to sought-after schools can improve achievement. The strong cross-sectional relationship observed between test score performance and school quality for the typical CPS elementary student is largely spurious, and highlights the importance of using a research design that compares like for like. Several possible explanations are explored, including the possibility that the typical student may be choosing schools for nonacademic reasons (safety, proximity) and may experience benefits along some dimensions. School quality is a complex and multidimensional concept. The chapter is concerned with the impact of attending a choice school, considering elementary school students in Chicago Public Schools. It uses lotteries to examine whether elementary school students who gain access to desirable schools do better. The great advantage is that randomly selected winners and losers are by definition exchangeable. The coexistence of intense competition for entry and little academic benefit to students winning the lotteries could indicate that parents are not well-informed about the education production function, and mistake higher school outputs for higher school value-added.

Keywords:   school quality, lotteries, test score performance, academic benefit, elementary student

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