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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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A Randomized Experiment of Magnet Schools and Student Achievement

Dale Ballou, Vanderbilt University
Ellen Goldring, Vanderbilt University

Abstract: Despite the overwhelming use of magnet schools as the most widespread form of public school choice, we have limited evidence about the efficacy of magnet schools in promoting and sustaining student learning and achievement. The purpose of this paper is to study the educational consequences of magnet schools utilizing a randomized lottery. Magnet school programs are extremely popular and most districts manage the admissions process using a lottery format. As a result, magnet programs that are oversubscribed possess features of a controlled experiment, with "treatment" and "control" groups (successful and unsuccessful applicants, respectively). As in a randomized experiment, the impact of the treatment (in this case, the magnet school) can be ascertained by comparing achievement of successful applicants who enroll in magnet schools with the achievement of unsuccessful participants who enroll in zoned schools. Research that follows this approach is widely regarded as the most promising way to measure the effect of school choice programs (Howell & Peterson, 2002).