A student just brought to my attention another random-assignment experiment on school choice that was recently released. The results are, again, positive. The study was conducted by Justine Hastings, Christopher Neilson, and Seth Zimmerman of Brown and Yale Universities and was released by NBER. I’ll let their abstract explain the findings:
Using data on student outcomes and school choice lotteries from a low-income urban school district,
we examine how school choice can affect student outcomes through increased motivation and personal
effort as well as through improved school and peer inputs. First we use unique daily data on individual-level
student absences and suspensions to show that lottery winners have significantly lower truancies after
they learn about lottery outcomes but before they enroll in their new schools. The effects are largest
for male students entering high school, whose truancy rates decline by 21% in the months after winning
the lottery. We then examine the impact attending a chosen school has on student test score outcomes.
We find substantial test score gains from attending a charter school and some evidence that choosing
and attending a high value-added magnet school improves test scores as well. Our results contribute
to current evidence that school choice programs can effectively raise test scores of participants. Our
findings suggest that this may occur both through an immediate effect on student behavior and through
the benefit of attending a higher-performing school.
School choice has to be the most rigorously studied education policy and has a relatively consistent set of positive findings.