Plotting School Choice: The Challenges of Crossing District Lines
Uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping technology of school performance information in California, Texas, and Florida, to determine which factors limit the ability of students to take advantage of interdistrict school choice opportunities.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
- Suburban students are the most likely to benefit from choice in Texas, nearly 18 percent of students in the Texas suburban schools examined could potentially transfer to a higher-performing school within a 20-minute drive.
- City school districts in Texas often have high numbers of lower-performing schools within their district boundaries and few higher-performing options. But these districts also often have higher-performing suburban districts nearby, making interdistrict choice a potentially important outlet for allowing students to attend a higher-performing school.
- In both California and Florida, students enrolled in city schools actually have more choice than students enrolled in suburban schools.
- Across all three states, students in rural and town-based schools saw some of the biggest percentage increases in available choice with the addition of interdistrict choice.
- In Texas city and suburban schools, the percent of students who could potentially transfer to a higher-performing school is highest among White students, lower among African-American students, and lowest among Hispanic students, indicating that minority students in Texas have the least opportunity to take advantage of a public school choice program.
- There are key features that need to be a part of the policy design, including a way to inform parents of their choices, transportation to higher-performing schools, incentives to higher-performing schools to participate, academic supports for students who transfer schools, and targeting participation to those students who can benefit most from attending a higher-performing school.
Choice, Geographic Location, Neighborhood, Segregation
Geographical Data, Secondary Survey Data
Method of Analysis:
GIS (Geographic Information System)
Unit of Analysis:
- Sample includes 8,000 California schools, nearly 7,000 Texas schools, and 2,600 Florida schools.
- Schools categorized as serving grades three, seven, and/or ten.
- Categorized as lower- or higher-performing; lower-performing schools are those schools scoring in the bottom two fifths (or quintiles) of performance of all schools in the state serving the same grade level; higher-performing schools are those schools scoring in the top three quintiles.
- Distance determined using GIS mapping; schools within 20 minute driving time are considered viable options for student transfer.
- Assumed that each nearby higher-performing school could increase enrollment by 10 percent to create available seats for students in lower-performing schools; these available seats were then distributed across all lower-performing schools within a 20-minute drive.
- DV: Ability to choose to attend a higher-performing school
- IV: Distance to higher-performing school, capacity of higher-performing school