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Market Signals: How Do DC Parents Rank Schools, and What Does It Mean for Policy?

June 15, 2016 BY The SchoolMint Collective

Steven Glazerman and Dallas Dotter, Mathematica Policy Research, June 2016


This policy brief summarizes a technical report that describes what parents look for when they choose a school.  School choice generally leads to competition among schools, but the health of that competition depends on how parents are choosing schools and the factors they are prioritizing.The project sought to understand more fully what parents look for when they choose a school. Researchers analyzed data from DC’s 2014 school lottery in which families submitted rank-ordered lists of their preferred schools from a long list of options (including charter schools and traditional public schools). These parent-submitted rankings provide a powerful “market signal” about what school attributes are in greatest demand.

The brief describes how these preferences affect the sorting of students into schools under different school-choice policies. The results confirm previous findings that commuting distance, school demographics, and academics play important roles in school choice. However, researchers also found considerable variation in parents’ preferences.

Download the policy brief (PDF).

Watch a recorded webinar to learn how other districts are improving, expanding and increasing participation in their school choice programs.