The Role of Selective High Schools in Equalizing Educational Outcomes: Heterogeneous Effects by Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status

November, 2016
Lisa Barrow, Lauren Sartain, and Marisa de la Torre

Link to working paper: Here

While much attention has been paid to racial achievement gaps, the test score gaps between students from low-income and high-income families are actually much larger. Improving access to high-quality public schools for low-income students may act as a lever for closing the gap by providing equitable educational opportunities for students who have fewer economic resources at home. In this study, researchers from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago use data from Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to compare outcomes for students who do and do not attend SEHSs, using a regression discontinuity design. It studies first-time ninth graders in CPS cohorts entering high school from 2010-2013. Specific attention is given to differences between students from low- and high-income neighborhoods (i.e., tier 1, tier 4 in the CPS admissions process). All SEHS students report more positive high school experiences (e.g. safety and relationships with teachers and peers). Overall, there are no benefits to test scores, high school graduation, college enrollment, and college selectivity. However, students from low-income neighborhoods who attend SEHSs may have lower GPAs and be less likely to attend a selective college. Additional research is needed to understand the mechanisms driving these findings.

For additional findings on student outcomes based on the high schools they attend, see this article published in EEPA in October 2016.

This is a working paper. Working papers are preliminary versions that are shared in a timely manner, with the aim of contributing to ongoing conversations in research and practice. They have not undergone the Consortium’s full internal review process, nor have they received external peer review. Views expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect those of the UChicago Consortium or the University of Chicago. Any errors are the authors’ own.

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