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Yet another study seems to indicate that white and Asian middle-class families benefit more than minority and lower-class families from open enrollment programs where students can choose to go to public schools outside of their neighborhoods.

The latest finding comes from a data analysis of New York City’s school choice program conducted by The Research Alliance for NYC Schools at NYU entitled, High School Choice in NYC: A Report on the School Choices and Placements of Low-Achieving Students. Not only do low achieving students in the bottom quintile end up at the worst schools in the city, the authors note that these bottom students are often selecting bad schools as their top choices. (Not surprisingly, most of the kids in this group are poor minorities). The most interesting chart was Table 3 on commute times. It showed that low-achieving students prioritize schools that are geographically closer to their homes than other students do. In Brooklyn, for example, eighth graders on average listed a top-choice high school that was 33.9 minutes away from their home. But low-achieving Brooklynites listed a top-choice high school that was 31.0 minutes away from home.

It could be that low achieving students don’t care enough about their education to travel an extra three minutes. It could also be that kids with low test scores are practical. After all, why bother listing Stuyvesant when you know you won’t get in? But the authors write that there are some selective high schools that will take students with low test scores. And so it may be that these students don’t have enough information to know to list these schools among their 12 choices.

Other media coverage on this study:

Schoolbook: Struggling Students Tend to Apply to Weaker High Schools

Education Week: Disparities Found in N.Y.C.’s System for Matching Students to Schools

Academic articles on school choice/open enrollment and how middle-class families take better advantage:

Educational Researcher: School Choice? Or is it Privatization?

Journal of Education Policy: Determinants of school choice: understanding how parents choose elementary schools in Alberta

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Jill Barshay writes the weekly “Proof Points” column about education research and data, covering a range of topics from early childhood to higher education. She taught algebra to ninth-graders for...

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