by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Wake County Schools implemented a student assignment program years ago to provide a more diverse educational environment and expend educational opportunity for more students.
Is it working? A serious look at this raises more questions: What are the impacts of school assignment on students and schools? And what are the program’s unintended consequences – if any?
These are some of the issues research teams from the University of North Carolina and Harvard University explored in two recent studies on the topic.
We find that on the whole, school reassignment has somewhat muted effects. In contrast to the sharp criticism and heated controversy that integration programs often inspire, switching schools does not harm students who are reassigned. In fact, reassigned students perform modestly better on statewide tests and are less likely to be suspended. We do find some negative effects for students who switch to schools where achievement and income levels are lower, but these effects are offset by positive impacts for students when school reassignments mean they learn alongside higher performing and wealthier peers. However, these impacts are small, because in most cases, student’s new schools are largely similar to the schools they left behind. Put another way, the impacts of school integration rely more on the destination than the departure.
Sounds like an argument for school choice.
These results are worth an extended discussion, and likely a topic that will come up more and more.