Dynamic Participation in Interdistrict Open Enrollment
Issue/Topic: Choice - Open Enrollment
Author(s): Lavery, Lesley; Carlson, Deven
Organization(s): Macalester College; University of Oklahoma
Publication: Educational Policy
Published On: 3/18/2015
Interdistrict open enrollment is the nation's largest and most widespread school choice program, but our knowledge of these programs is limited. We know little about the characteristics of interdistrict open enrollment participants, the schooling decisions that students make through the program or the effects of the program on outcomes of interest.
To provide insight into a basic, important dimension of the nation's largest school choice program and to lay the groundwork for future analyses of other features of these programs
- Socioeconomically disadvantaged students were significantly less likely to open enroll than their more affluent peers.
- Students with special designations - ELL, gifted and talented, learning disabled - are also significantly less likely to open enroll.
- Black students open enrolled at higher rates than students of any other race while Hispanic students were least likely to open enroll.
- Students who open enroll tend to live in districts with a higher percentage of students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch and a lower percentage of students who are White.
- There is a lack of stability in interdistrict open enrollment. Only about 70 percent of students who open enroll in one year also open enroll the next, compared to 98 percent of students who do not open enroll in a given year and do not attend a school outside of their district of residence the following year.
- Students who reside in a school district where the demographic profile does not match their own are disproportionately likely to participate in open enrollment programs.
- Although common rhetoric concerning open enrollment is that it would permit disadvantaged students to attend high quality schools, it seems likely that the program's primary use is as a public school voucher program for middle-class and upper-middle-class families. This needs to be recognized for discussion and debate.
- That socioeconomically advantaged students are more likely to leave poorer districts for more advantaged districts may increase stratification along socioeconomic dimensions.
- Substantial rates of movement into and out of school choice programs represent an unintended consequence of school choice policies, a possibility that is potentially troublesome given the body of work linking mobility with negative academic outcomes.
- Since open enrollment is disproportionately utilized by socioeconomically advantaged students, policymakers might reconsider the program's design to explicitly target selected populations.
Cohorts of Colorado kindergarteners, 6th and 9th graders from the universe of Colorado children going to public schools
Year data is from:
2005-2006 to 2009-2010
Data Collection and Analysis:
Drawing on five years of student-level data from the universe of students attending public school in Colorado, researchers performed a three-stage analysis. They looked at kindergarteners, 6th and 9th graders who open enrolled in the baseline year. Then they looked at students who continued to participate in subsequent years. Finally, they considered students who didn't open enroll initially, but did in later years.
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