The Impact of Neighborhood School Choice: Evidence from Los Angeles’s Zones of Choice Program

This quasi-experimental study by Christopher Campos and Caitlin Kearns evaluates a school choice model in Los Angeles (Zones of Choice) that allows for school choice in certain neighborhoods, while keeping attendance boundaries intact in others. Using student administrative data, data on student preferences and school assignments, and postsecondary enrollment records for students enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2008-2019, the authors compare outcomes among students in neighborhood Zones of Choice with outcomes among those in neighborhoods without school choice. The findings suggest that Zones of Choice increased student achievement growth and college enrollment, especially for students who were enrolled in schools within Zones of Choice for most of their K-12 education. The authors find that these increases were mainly driven by lower-performing students in Zones of Choice having higher achievement gains. The results of a decomposition of the achievement effects suggest that changes in school quality, and not changes in the quality of the match between students and schools, explains student achievement growth. Competition between schools may have contributed to the increases in school quality, given that one of parents’ top considerations for ranking schools is the school achievement level.

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