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Leveling the Playing Field for High School Choice: Results from a Field Experiment of Informational Interventions

Sean P. Corcoran, Jennifer L. Jennings, Sarah R. Cohodes, Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj

NBER Working Paper No. 24471
Issued in March 2018
NBER Program(s):The Program on Children, The Education Program, The Labor Studies Program, The Public Economics Program

We conducted a field experiment in 165 high-poverty New York City middle schools to help students navigate a complex high school choice process and access higher-performing schools. Students in treatment schools were given a customized one-page list of proximate high schools with a graduation rate at or above the city median (70%). Some also received a supplemental list highlighting academically non-selective schools or high schools organized by academic interest area. The interventions changed student application behavior in ways that led to more matches to higher-performing schools. While treatment students did not apply to higher graduation rate schools, they applied to schools where their odds of admission were higher, were more likely to receive their first-choice high school, and were less likely to match to a school with a low graduation rate. Our findings also suggest that informational interventions may not reduce inequality, since both disadvantaged and comparatively advantaged students used our materials, and in some cases the latter benefited more from them by applying and matching to more schools on our lists. Students in non-English speaking households, who were particularly responsive to the intervention and were much less likely to match to a low-performing school, were one notable exception to this pattern.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24471

 
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