School Choice, Student Mobility, and School Quality

Evidence from Post-Katrina New Orleans

Published in: Education Finance and Policy, 2015

Posted on RAND.org on November 24, 2015

by Richard O. Welsh, Matthew Duque, Andrew McEachin

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In recent decades, school choice policies predicated on student mobility have gained prominence as urban districts address chronically low-performing schools. However, scholars have highlighted equity concerns related to choice policies. The case of post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans provides an opportunity to examine student mobility patterns in a choice-based district. This paper analyzes student mobility between and within the various sectors and school types using a multinomial framework. We find rates of student mobility in post-Katrina New Orleans to be similar to other traditional urban school districts. Overall, our results indicate that high-achieving students switch to high quality schools while low-achieving students transfer to low quality schools. It is clear some students are taking advantage of the ability to choose a high quality educational option, while many students are still not. Policy implications, especially for education policy makers implementing or considering school choice policies, and areas for future research are discussed.

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