School choice in practice

This project studies how well families understand the way school choice works, and how districts should design centralized school choice systems given what families do and do not know. The project is a collaboration between researchers at Princeton, Columbia, and the University of Chicago and the public school district in New Haven, CT (NHPS).

The goals of the project are to:

  • Gain insight into the practical implementation of school choice by taking the theory of market design to data.
  • Help NHPS and other districts evaluate the efficacy of existing approaches to improving outreach and understanding of choice.

Big questions this project takes aim at include:

  • How do the size and equity of gains from school choice depend on families’ ability to gather and use information on the way school choice works?
  • How does changing school choice assignment mechanisms affect the distribution of satisfaction and academic achievement across households?

We address these questions by:

  • Collaborating with NHPS  to conduct a household survey measuring the preferences, sophistication, and beliefs of potential school choice participants.
  • Linking survey results to administrative records of school choice and academic outcomes and estimate a model of school choice participation.
  • Using the model to evaluate the effects of different policies, like changing the assignment mechanism or giving households even better information.

The study is part of an ongoing research partnership with the public school district in New Haven, Connecticut (henceforth NHPS). A present, we are working with the district to design and evaluate possible improvements to the school choice mechanism, and, in general, to help the district expand the benefits of school choice for all district households.