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Is Gaining Access to Selective Elementary Schools Gaining Ground? Evidence From Randomized Lotteries

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  • Julie Berry Cullen
  • Brian A. Jacob

Abstract

In this paper, we examine whether expanded access to sought-after schools can improve academic achievement. The setting we study is the "open enrollment" system in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). We use lottery data to avoid the critical issue of non-random selection of students into schools. Our analysis sample includes nearly 450 lotteries for kindergarten and first grade slots at 32 popular schools in 2000 and 2001. We track students for up to five years and examine outcomes such as standardized test scores, grade retention and special education placement. Comparing lottery winners and losers, we find that lottery winners attend higher quality schools as measured by both the average achievement level of peers in the school as well as by value-added indicators of the school's contribution to student learning. Yet, we do not find that winning a lottery systematically confers any evident academic benefits. We explore several possible explanations for our findings, including the possibility that the typical student may be choosing schools for non-academic reasons (e.g., safety, proximity) and/or may experience benefits along dimensions we are unable to measure, but find little evidence in favor of such explanations. Moreover, we separately examine effects for a variety of demographic subgroups, and for students whose application behavior suggests a strong preference for academics, but again find no significant effects.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13443.

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Date of creation: Sep 2007
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Publication status: published as Is Gaining Access to Selective Elementary Schools Gaining Ground? Evidence from Randomized Lotteries , Julie Berry Cullen, Brian A. Jacob. in The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth: An Economic Perspective , Gruber. 2009
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13443

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  1. Jonah E. Rockoff, 2004. "The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 247-252, May.
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  17. Julie Berry Cullen & Brian A Jacob & Steven Levitt, 2006. "The Effect of School Choice on Participants: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(5), pages 1191-1230, 09.
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Cited by:
  1. David J. Deming & Justine S. Hastings & Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2014. "School Choice, School Quality, and Postsecondary Attainment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(3), pages 991-1013, March.
  2. Buddin, Richard & Zamarro, Gema, 2009. "Teacher qualifications and student achievement in urban elementary schools," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 103-115, September.
  3. Richard Buddin & Gema Zamarro, 2009. "Teacher Qualifications and Middle School Student Achievement," Working Papers 671, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  4. Abdulkadiro─člu, Atila & Angrist, Joshua & Pathak, Parag A., 2012. "The Elite Illusion: Achievement Effects at Boston and New York Exam Schools," IZA Discussion Papers 6790, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Richard Buddin & Gema Zamarro, 2009. "Teacher Effectiveness in Urban High Schools," Working Papers 693, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  6. Richard Buddin & Gena Zamarro, 2008. "Teacher Quality, Teacher Licensure Tests, and Student Achievement," Working Papers 555, RAND Corporation Publications Department.

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