Can Interdistrict Choice Boost Student Achievement?
The Case of Connecticut’s Interdistrict Magnet School Program

Robert Bifulco, Casey Cobb & Courtney Bell [320K PDF]:

In response to a landmark civil rights ruling, the state of Connecticut has adopted models of choice-based interdistrict desegregation that appear to satisfy current legal constraints. In this paper, we focus on Connecticut’s interdistrict magnet schools, and estimate the effects these schools have had on student achievement. We use longitudinal data on individual student test performance and information from admissions lotteries to implement quasi-experimental, regression-based, and propensity score estimators. Preliminary analyses show that lottery based methods, propensity score methods, and regression analysis provide similar estimates of achievement effects of for the small set of schools for which all three methods can be implemented. We then proceed to use the latter two methods to estimate effects for all of the interdistrict magnet high schools and middle schools that serve students from Hartford, Waterbury and New Haven. Results indicate that, on average, interdistrict magnet high schools have positive effects on both math and reading achievement, and interdistrict magnet middle schools have positive effects on reading achievement. Extensions of our analysis indicate that interdistrict magnet high schools have positive effects particularly on the achievement of students in Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury and do so regardless of how much attending an interdistrict magnet high school reduces racial isolation. The positive effects of magnet middle schools appear to be limited to suburban students, except in those schools that are able to achieve substantial reductions in racial isolation for their central city students.