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The impact of Chicago’s small high school initiative

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  • Barrow, Lisa
  • Schanzenbach, Diane Whitmore
  • Claessens, Amy

Abstract

This project examines the effects of the introduction of new small high schools on student performance in the Chicago Public School (CPS) district. Specifically, we investigate whether students attending small high schools have better graduation/enrollment rates and achievement than similar students who attend regular CPS high schools. We show that students who choose to attend a small school are more disadvantaged on average, including having prior test scores that are about 0.2 standard deviations lower than their elementary school classmates. To address the selection problem, we use an instrumental variables strategy and compare students who live in the same neighborhoods but differ in their residential proximity to a small school. In this approach, one student is more likely to sign up for a small school than another statistically identical student because the small school is located closer to the student’s house and therefore the “cost” of attending the school is lower. The distance-to-small-school variable has strong predictive power to identify who attends a small school. We find that small schools students are substantially more likely to persist in school and eventually graduate. Nonetheless, there is no positive impact on student achievement as measured by test scores.

Suggested Citation

  • Barrow, Lisa & Schanzenbach, Diane Whitmore & Claessens, Amy, 2015. "The impact of Chicago’s small high school initiative," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 100-113.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:87:y:2015:i:c:p:100-113
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2015.02.002
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    Cited by:

    1. Philip J. Cook & Kenneth Dodge & George Farkas & Roland G. Fryer, Jr & Jonathan Guryan & Jens Ludwig & Susan Mayer & Harold Pollack & Laurence Steinberg, 2014. "The (Surprising) Efficacy of Academic and Behavioral Intervention with Disadvantaged Youth: Results from a Randomized Experiment in Chicago," NBER Working Papers 19862, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Holmlund, Helena & Böhlmark, Anders, 2017. "Does grade configuration matter for school performance? Short- and long-run effects of school reorganisation," Working Paper Series 2017:6, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    3. Schwartz, Amy Ellen & Stiefel, Leanna & Wiswall, Matthew, 2016. "Are all schools created equal? Learning environments in small and large public high schools in New York City," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 272-290.
    4. Julie Berry Cullen & Steven D. Levitt & Erin Robertson & Sally Sadoff, 2013. "What Can Be Done to Improve Struggling High Schools?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 133-152, Spring.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    School size; Urban schools; School reform; Small schools; High schools; Student outcomes;

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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