Does School Choice Work? Effects on Student Integration and Achievement
Public school choice programs in San Diego—the nation’s eighth-largest school district—are extremely popular, especially among non-white communities; many San Diego families who apply for these programs are turned away each year. San Diego’s experience stands against the backdrop of a national debate about choice—with proponents arguing such programs will create better schools and accountability, and opponents countering that they could stratify and resegregate a system premised on educational equality. Researchers examined the selection of students for choice programs and their movements through the school system and found that such programs do seem to have helped to integrate San Diego’s student bodies, not only along racial-ethnic lines but also in terms of students’ parental education levels.
But evidence that choice programs also boost academic achievement is less clear. With some exceptions—elevated math achievement for students in magnet high schools — those who won lotteries that allowed them to attend choice programs did about the same on standardized tests as non-winners one to three years later.