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).