School Choice Programs

Are you familiar with the USA School Choice program?

School Choice is an open program, from K to 12, which provides parents more freedom to enroll their children where they think they'll get the best education. This program aims to benefit families that want expanded education options and offers students opportunities to participate in schools with higher achievement and graduation levels.

There are, in fact, many types of school choice programs. Some of them are:

  • Education Savings Accounts
  • Vouchers
  • Tax-Credit Scholarships
  • Charter Schools
  • Magnet Schools
  • Homeschooling
  • Online Learning, among others

Typically, students are assigned to a neighborhood school, but low-income families can apply to any other public school outside of their neighborhood. Interestingly, as of today, the literature reveals mixed results about the outcome of school choice programs. 

In Chicago, between 2000 and 2001, more than half of high school students elected to attend a school other than the one assigned to them. So, in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools, some researchers examined the effects of a school choice program on several student achievement outcomes.

To attend an unassigned school, students must apply to the school of their choice during the spring. When the number of applications for a school exceeds the number of available positions, randomized lotteries are used to allocate students. 

Researchers used a lottery-induced randomization to create and compare two groups of students: students who won the lottery and students who lost. Chicago Public Schools provided detailed administrative data on the randomized lottery applications submitted in spring 2000 and spring 2001. The overall sample included 19,520 applications from 14,434 students at 19 different high schools.

In this case, researchers found no measurable difference in traditional education outcomes for students who attended better schools. However, there were some improvements in nonacademic outcomes, like fewer arrests, and lower incarceration rates. Students who won lotteries to high-achieving schools reported an 8.7 percentage point drop in disciplinary actions. There was, also, a self-reported reduction of arrest rates by 5.1 percentage points at high-achieving schools.



Cullen, Julie Berry, Brian Jacob, and Steven Levitt. 2006. "The Effect of School Choice on Student Outcomes: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries." Econometrica 74(5): 1191-1230.

The Effect of School Choice on Student Outcomes in the United States | The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. (2005).