Trending Topic Research File: School Choice
Trending Topic Research File: School Choice
School Choice

Trending Topic Research File

Programs that offer students and their parents options to local public schools – including vouchers, charter schools, magnet schools, and open enrollment – are increasingly common and hotly debated. In recent years, AERA’s journals have examined many aspects of school choice, including: 

  • Who participates in these programs
  • What is the impact on student achievement
  • What happens to students who leave programs 

The following compendium of open-access articles is inclusive of all substantive AERA journal content regarding school choice published since 2009. This page will be updated as new articles are published.  

AERA Journal Articles

Note: Articles are listed below in reverse chronological order of publication. 

The “Good” Schools: Academic Performance Data, School Choice, and Segregation
David M. Houston, Jeffrey R. Henig
AERA Open, June 2023
Researchers found that only growth information—alone, and not in concert with status information—tends to elicit choices with desegregating consequences.

Marketing and School Choice: A Systematic Literature Review
Ellen Greaves, Deborah Wilson, Agnes Nairn
Review of Educational Research, February 2023
Researchers found that schools’ marketing has yet to be tackled by marketing academics or other social scientists outside the education field.

What Schools Do Families Want (and Why)? Evidence on Revealed Preferences From New Orleans
Douglas N. Harris, Matthew F. Larsen
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, January 2023
Researchers found that families prefer schools with higher school value-added, more extracurricular activities, and after-school childcare.

Preference Compromise and Parent Satisfaction With Schools in Choice Markets: Evidence From Kansas City, Missouri
Argun Saatcioglu, Anthony R. Snethen
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, October 2022
Researchers found that low-income and less educated parents and those from historically marginalized racial/ethnic backgrounds make a greater degree of preference compromise than other parents do.

The Stability of Families’ Revealed Preferences for Schools
Mark J. Chin
Educational Researcher, October 2022
Researchers found that preferences for schools’ racial/ethnic composition are more stable than preferences for quality and proximity to home, even after concurrently controlling for all characteristics.

A New Admission System in Chile and Its Foreseen Moderate Impact on Access for Low-Income Students
Ngaire Honey, Alejandro Carrasco

Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, July 2022
Researchers found that eliminating admissions barriers may contribute to increased educational opportunity, but the impact may be limited by the multiple structural factors shaping inequality in Chile.

Informing School-Choosing Families About Their Options: A Field Experiment From New Orleans
Jon Valant, Lindsay H. Weixler
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, May 2022
Researchers found that the growth treatment led applicants to request more high-growth schools, with the strongest effects for high school choosers and families of students with disabilities. In addition, applicants’ first-choice requests appeared less malleable than their lower ranked requests. The distance treatment had only modest effects.

Race, Gender, and Networks: How Teachers’ Social Connections Structure Access to Job Opportunities in Districts With School Choice
Huriya Jabbar, Rachel Boggs, Joshua Childs
AERA Open, March 2022
Researchers found that in choice-rich environments, there was an extensive reliance on social networks in the hiring process, and teachers had different access to key social networks that can help to land jobs.

“I Just Didn’t Want to Risk It”: How Perceptions of Risk Motivate Charter School Choice Among Latinx Parents
Julia Szabo
American Educational Research Journal, March 2022
Researchers found that parents framed charter school choice as a strategy to mitigate risk and protect their children’s educational futures.

Publicwashing in Education: Definition, Motives, and Manifestations
Izhak Berkovich, Lotem Perry-Hazan
Educational Researcher, January 2022
This essay coins and conceptualizes the term “publicwashing.” In educational systems and organizations, publicwashing is a symbolic communication that emphasizes organizational publicness for the purpose of a superficial repair of reputation. 

Race, Geography, and School Choice Policy: A Critical Analysis of Detroit Students’ Suburban School Choices
Jeremy Singer, Sarah Winchell Lenhoff
AERA Open, January 2022
Researchers found that Detroit students’ suburban school choices were circumscribed by racial geography and concentrated in just a handful of schools and districts.

How Do Parents Evaluate and Select Schools? Evidence From a Survey Experiment
Shira Alicia Korn Haderlein
American Educational Research Journal, September 2021
Researchers found that achievement matters to parents but status matters more when evaluating quality and growth matters more when choosing between schools.

Patterns in the Pandemic Decline of Public School Enrollment
Thomas S. Dee, Mark Murphy
Educational Researcher, August 2021
Researchers found that declines in public school enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic were concentrated in traditional districts while charter, virtual, and vocational districts increased their enrollment. 

Just Out of Reach? Unrestrained Supply, Constrained Demand, and Access to Effective Schools in and Around Detroit
Danielle Sanderson Edwards
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, March 2021
Researchers found that disadvantaged students have little access to the highest quality schools available, specifically those outside Detroit. However, students attend higher performing schools within Detroit.

A Choice Too Far: Transit Difficulty and Early High School Transfer
Marc L. Stein, Julia Burdick-Will, Jeffrey Grigg
Educational Researcher, August 2020
Researchers found that students who have relatively more difficult commutes are more likely to transfer than peers in the same school with less difficult commutes.

Exploring the Impacts of an Early Childhood Educational Intervention on Later School Selection
Tyler Watts, Deanna Ibrahim, Alaa Khader, Chen Li, Jill Gandhi, Cybele Raver
Educational Researcher, June 2020
Researchers found that adolescents who participated in an early childhood educational intervention program were more likely to opt out of their assigned neighborhood school and attend schools with better indicators of academic performance.

Virtual Illusion: Comparing Student Achievement and Teacher and Classroom Characteristics in Online and Brick-and-Mortar Charter Schools
Brian R. Fitzpatrick, Mark Berends, Joseph J. Ferrare, R. Joseph Waddington
Educational Researcher, March 2020
This study examined the achievement effects of virtual charter schools vis-à-vis brick-and-mortar charters and traditional public schools and whether characteristics of teachers and classrooms explain the observed impacts. 

Socioeconomic Segregation and School Choice in American Public Schools
Dave E. Marcotte, Kari Dalane
Educational Researcher, October 2019
Researchers found that the segregation of FLE students from non-FLE students increased by about 15% in large school districts and that charter school penetration and growth played a role in increasing socioeconomic segregation within districts.

To Switch or Not to Switch? The Influence of School Choice and Labor Market Segmentation on Teachers’ Job Searches
Huriya Jabbar, Andrene Castro, Emily Germain
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, July 2019
Researchers found that structural policies within each sector can create barriers to mobility across charter schools and TPSs and that teachers’ ideological beliefs and values serve as informal, personal barriers that reinforce divides between sectors.

Heretical Discourses in Post-Katrina Charter School Applications
Kevin Lawrence Henry, Jr.
American Educational Research Journal, June 2019
The study found patterns of confluence between narratives within charter school applications and the applicants’ racial and educational identities, suggesting that the authorization process worked as a site for the reproduction of racialized neoliberal dominance in post-Katrina New Orleans, disenfranchising local teachers and communities.

Closed Schools, Open Markets: A Hot Spot Spatial Analysis of School Closures and Charter Openings in Detroit
Terrance L. Green, Joanna D. Sánchez, Andrene J. Castro
AERA Open, May 2019
Findings of the study suggest that charter school openings occur more often in hot spots or concentrated ways than the closure of traditional public schools in Detroit.

“To Be Strict on Your Own”: Black and Latinx Parents Evaluate Discipline in Urban Choice Schools
Joanne W. Golann, Mira Debs, Anna Lisa Weiss
American Educational Research Journal, March 2019
Researchers found that parents viewed discipline as more than rule-following, valuing also self-discipline and academic discipline. While no-excuses parents supported an orderly environment, many found the discipline restrictive.

Disability, Race, and the Geography of School Choice: Toward an Intersectional Analytical Framework
Federico R. Waitoller, Christopher Lubienski
AERA Open, January 2019
Researchers described a theoretical framework to address two limitations of research on school choice sets: limited attention to students with disabilities and dichotomization of space and place.

Does Attendance in Private Schools Predict Student Outcomes at Age 15? Evidence From a Longitudinal Study
Robert C. Pianta, Arya Ansari
Educational Researcher, July 2018
Researchers found that in unadjusted models, children with a history of enrollment in private schools performed better on nearly all outcomes assessed in adolescence. However, by simply controlling for the sociodemographic characteristics that selected children and families into these schools, all of the advantages of private school education were eliminated.

Unwrapping the Suburban “Package Deal”: Race, Class, and School Access
Anna Rhodes, Siri Warkentien
American Educational Research Journal, April 2017
Researchers found that the ideal educational arrangement for nearly all parents is to live in a neighborhood that guarantees access to neighborhood schools that meet their expectations.

Student Enrollment Patterns and Achievement in Ohio’s Online Charter Schools
June Ahn, Andrew McEachin
Educational Researcher, January 2017
Researchers found that students and families appear to self-segregate in stark ways where low-income, lower achieving White students are more likely to choose e-schools while low-income, lower achieving minority students are more likely to opt into the traditional charter school sector.

The Educational Benefits of Attending Higher Performing Schools: Evidence From Chicago High Schools
Elaine M. Allensworth, Paul T. Moore, Lauren Sartain, Marisa de la Torre
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, October 2016
Researchers found that the effects of attending a higher performing school depend on the school’s performance level.

School Hopscotch: A Comprehensive Review of K–12 Student Mobility in the United States
Richard O. Welsh
Review of Educational Research, October 2016
Researchers found that switching schools is associated with a negative impact on students’ educational outcomes; however, transferring to higher quality schools may offset and outweigh the transition costs of moving.

Converging on Choice: The Interstate flow of Foundation Dollars to Charter school Organizations
Joseph J. Ferrare, R. Renee Setari
Educational Researcher, November 2017
Researchers found that between 2009 and 2014, foundations were increasingly converging their funding flows to charter school organziations in select clusters of states as they shifted the concentration of funds away from individual charter schools to charter management organizations (CMOs) and advocacy organizations. 

Public School Choice and Student Achievement: Evidence From Michigan's Interdistrict Open Enrollment System
Joshua Cowen, Benjamin Creed
AERA Open, September 2017
This study compares charter and traditional public schools in Detroit, Michigan, on perceived school safety by linking student surveys to data on school, neighborhood, and parent-related characteristics. 

Are Charter Schools Safer in Deindustrialized Cities with High Rates of Crime? Testing Hypotheses in Detroit
Daniel Hamlin
American Educational Research Journal, May 2017
This study compares charter and traditional public schools in Detroit, Michigan, on perceived school safety by linking student surveys to data on school, neighborhood, and parent-related characteristics. 

The Effects of School Turnaround in Tennessee's Acievemtn School District and Innovation Zones
Ron Zimmer, Gary T. Henry, Adam Kho
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, May 2017
The authors examined the effects of three turnaround strategies implemented in Tennessee and found that iZone schools, which ere separately managed by by three districts, substantially improved student achievement. 

Market Signals: Evidence on the Determinants and Consequences of School Choice from a Citywide Lottery
Steven Glazerman, Dallas Dotter
Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, April 2017
Simulations suggest segregation by race and income would be reduced and enrollment in high-performing schools increased if policymakers were to relax school capacity constraints in individual campuses.

Vouchers in the Bayou: The Effects of the Louisiana Scholarship Program on Student Achievement After Two Years
Jonathan N. Mills, Patrick J. Wolf
Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, February 2017
The findings indicate that the use of an LSP scholarship has negatively affected both English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics achievement.

Does Attending a Charter School Reduce the Likelihood of Being Placed Into Special Education? Evidence From Denver, Colorado
Marcus A. Winters, Dick M. Carpenter, Grant Clayton 
Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, February 2017
Researchers found evidence that attending a Denver charter school reduces the likelihood that a student is classified as having a specific learning disability, which is the largest and most subjectively diagnosed disability category.

The Variation in Student Achievement and Attendance within a Portfolio Management Model: Early Results from New Orleans
Andrew J. McEachin, Richard Osbourne Welsh, Dominic James Brewer 
Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, December 2016
The results indicated many of the sector and school type combinations that produced higher math and English Language Arts achievement also positively impacted students’ behavior.

“Every Kid Is Money” Market-Like Competition and School Leader Strategies in New Orleans
Huriya Jabbar
Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, December 2015
Findings suggest that school leaders experienced market pressures due to school choice, however their responses to pressures varied, with some taking steps toward school improvement whereas others engaged in marketing or cream skimming.

Competitive Networks and School Leaders’ Perceptions: The Formation of an Education Marketplace in Post-Katrina New Orleans
Huriya Jabbar 
American Educational Research Journal, September 2015
The author studied principals’ competitive networks and the sets of schools they view as rivals, and used network and statistical analysis to explore factors that explain the existence of a competitive tie between two schools.

The Uneven Performance of Arizona’s Charter Schools
Matthew M. Chingos, Martin R. West 
Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, May 2015
This article used student-level data covering all Arizona students from 2006 to 2012 to find that the performance of charter schools in Arizona in improving student achievement varied widely though on average were modestly less effective than TPS in raising student achievement.

Understanding the Gap in Special Education Enrollments Between Charter and Traditional Public Schools: Evidence From Denver, Colorado
Marcus A. Winters 
Educational Researcher, April 2015
A widely cited report by the federal Government Accountability Office found that charter schools enroll a significantly smaller percentage of students with disabilities than do traditional public schools. This article found that the special education gap in elementary and middle school begins because students with disabilities are less likely to apply to charter schools in gateway grades and more than doubles as students’ progress between kindergarten and the fifth grade.

Student Selection, Attrition, and Replacement in KIPP Middle Schools
Ira Nichols-Barrer, Philip Gleason, Brian Gill, Christina Clark Tuttle 
Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, January 2015
Researchers investigated whether the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter school network relies on selective admission, attrition, and replacement of students to produce positive achievement results, as argued by skeptics of the program.

Do Charter Schools Improve Student Achievement?
Melissa A. Clark, Philip M. Gleason, Christina Clark Tuttle, Marsha K. Silverberg 
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, December 2014
Based on a lottery-based study of the impacts of a set of 33 charter middle schools across 13 states on student achievement, researchers found more positive impacts for more disadvantaged schools and students and more negative impacts for the more advantaged.

High-Stakes Choice: Achievement and Accountability in the Nation’s Oldest Urban Voucher Program
John F. Witte, Patrick J. Wolf, Joshua M. Cowen, Deven E. Carlson, David J. Fleming 
Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, June 2014
Researchers’ results indicate substantial growth for students using publicly funded vouchers in the first high-stakes testing year, particularly in mathematics, and for students with higher levels of earlier academic achievement.

Contexts Matter: Selections in Means-Tested School Voucher Programs
Cassandra M. D. Hart  
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, June 2014
This study examines the characteristics associated with participating in a means-tested school voucher program in Florida, finding that when considered together, these factors can predict voucher use.

Is There Empirical Evidence That Charter Schools “Push Out” Low-Performing Students?
Ron W. Zimmer, Cassandra M. Guarino  
Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis December 2013
Using data from an anonymous major urban school district, the authors find no empirical evidence to support claims that charter schools are more likely to push out low-achieving students than are traditional public schools.

Gender Gaps in College Enrollment: The Role of Gender Sorting Across Public High Schools
Dylan Conger, Mark C. Long  
Educational Researcher October 2013
Using Florida administrative data, the authors found evidence of gender sorting across public high schools and use regression and decomposition techniques to find that gender-sorting explains higher rates of college enrollment among Hispanic and African-American females in counties where a larger share of students attend private, magnet, charter, and irregular public schools.

Life After Vouchers: What Happens to Students Who Leave Private Schools for the Traditional Public Sector?
Deven Carlson, Joshua M. Cowen, David J. Fleming 
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, June 2013
More than 1,000 students who left the citywide voucher program in Milwaukee were analyzed, with the authors finding that in general, transferring students realized substantial achievement gains after transferring to better public schools.

Charter Management Organizations and the Regulated Environment: Is It Worth the Price?
Joan F. Goodman 
Educational Researcher, February 2013
The article scrutinizes four charter management organization (CMO) commonalities, along with their implications: the pervasive adult monitoring of students, targeting behaviors tangential to learning, attributing independent agency to children who deviate, and student derogation by adults.

Public Online Charter School Students: Choices, Perceptions, and Traits
Paul Kim, Flora Hisook Kim, Arafeh Karimi  
American Educational Research Journal, June 2012
Examining the reasons for students to choose a public online charter school program and their perceptions of online discussion, the authors found that students who drop out of traditional school are unlikely to stay in online programs unless adequately supported.

Going Public: Who Leaves a Large, Longstanding, and Widely Available Urban Voucher Program?
Joshua M. Cowen, David J. Fleming, John F. Witte, Patrick J. Wolf  
American Educational Research Journal, April 2012
The authors analyzed data collected as part of an evaluation of Milwaukee’s citywide voucher program, finding several important patterns which suggest a large voucher program may not provide a long-term solution for the most disadvantaged students.

The Effectiveness of Private Voucher Education: Evidence from Structural School Switches
Bernardo Lara, Alejandra Mizala, Andrea Repetto  
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, June 2011
The authors analyze the effect of private voucher education on student academic performance, finding that private voucher education amounts to about 4% to 6% of a standard deviation in test scores, compared to effects of 15% to 20% of one standard deviation found in Chilean literature.

Public School Response to Special Education Vouchers: The Impact of Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program on Disability Diagnosis and Student Achievement in Public Schools
Marcus A. Winters, Jay P. Greene  
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, June 2011
Using a panel data set from Florida, the authors find evidence that competition from a voucher program for disabled students decreased the likelihood that students are diagnosed as having mild disabilities yet was positively related to academic achievement in the public schools.

The Determinants of Interdistrict Open Enrollment Flows: Evidence from Two States
Deven Carlson, Lesley Lavery, John F. Witte  
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, March 2011
Analyzing the determinants of interdistrict open enrollment flows in Minnesota and Colorado, the authors find that open enrollment flows are driven by student achievement and structural characteristics of districts and that most transfers take place between relatively high-achieving districts.

Court-Driven Reform and Equal Educational Opportunity: Centralization, Decentralization, and the Shifting Judicial Role
Benjamin Michael Superfine  
Review of Educational Research, March 2010
This review aims to clarify scholars’ understanding of court-driven reform of educational governance to leverage equal educational opportunities across three major fields, including school choice.

Can Interdistrict Choice Boost Student Achievement? The Case of Connecticut’s Interdistrict Magnet School Program
Robert Bifulco, Casey D. Cobb, Courtney Bell  
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, December 2009
Presenting evidence that interdisctrict magnet schools have provided students from Connecticut’s central cities access to less racially and economically isolated education environments, the results of this study indicate that attendance at an interdisctrict magnet high school has positive effects on math and reading achievement of city students and that that attendance at an interdisctrict middle school has positive effects on reading achievement.

To Choose or Not to Choose: High School Choice and Graduation in Chicago
Douglas Lee Lauren 
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, September 2009
This study examines the consequences of participating in public high school choice in Chicago, finding a modest positive graduation benefit from exercising school choice with no racial/ethnic differences.

Public Schools Versus Private Schools: Casual Inference With Partial Compliance
Hui Jin, Donald B. Rubin
Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, March 2009
The authors assess the effects of private school versus public schools on academic achievement using a subset of the longitudinal data from the New York City School Choice Scholarship Program, with results seeming to favor public schools.