Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

School choice impacts within a local school district
by Chisesi, Lawrence J., Ph.D., Colorado State University, 2012, 129; 3523761
Abstract (Summary)

In the mid 1990's, changes in Colorado state law and local school district policy resulted in the opening of magnet and charter schools within a school district in Northern Colorado. Parents now had multiple school choice options that were independent of school assignment based on residency. I use student level data to analyze school choice impacts within the district as they unfolded over time.

I test first if there are student achievement gains that can be attributed to school choice. In theory, when parents can better match the needs of their children to the offerings at different schools, student achievement should increase. Using multilevel modeling I find little evidence that school choice yields achievement gains compared to residential based school choice, but do find that some schools that offered differentiated curriculums yielded gains. The negative impacts on student achievement attributed to low family income and from when students change schools explain much of the variation in test scores.

I next examine how local public schools may compete for students once parents are given expanded school choice rights. Economic theory suggests that competition for students would force lower performing schools to improve or risk losing their students to higher achieving schools. I test to see if the choices that parents make to attend schools outside their neighborhoods are influenced by prior year academic achievement, the income and ethnic composition of a school and changes in the size of a local school's attendance zone. I find that shrinking attendance zones preceded students choicing into other schools, motivating schools to compete for students. Past performance matters as well, but so does the composition of the student body and how representative the student body is of the community that surrounds the school. Parents show preferences to associate with families with similar incomes and ethnic background.

Finally, I study how school choice impacts housing decisions. If school choice breaks the link between residency and local schooling then house prices should reflect this change. Parents would be less willing to pay a premium to live near a higher performing school and should receive less of a discount to purchase a home near a lower performing school. Using prices paid by cohorts of home buyers that subsequently placed their children into district schools, I find support for the hypothesis that the house price-school quality link evaporates with school choice and that changes in housing valuations can be modeled as a function of the number of families choicing into and out of school attendance zones. Prices appear to be moving towards an equilibrium whereby local school quality and distance to the assigned school no longer contribute value to the price of a home.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cutler, Harvey
Commitee: Alves Pena, Anita, Shields, Martin, Wallner, Barbara
School: Colorado State University
Department: Economics
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-A 74/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Education Policy, Economics
Keywords: Charter schools, Competition, Housing, Housing prices, Real estate, School choice
Publication Number: 3523761
ISBN: 978-1-267-56976-9
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