Changing the school system’s priority metrics, reserving seats for the academically gifted, having quotas for certain types of seats are design factors that could make a difference.
“When Wake County Schools contemplates changes,” Hammond said, “we can look in the data to see whether such a change might be good or bad.” Hammond appreciates how the researchers have facilitated the collaboration between policymakers and economists.
Using data from the school system, we had a cleaner way to ask questions.” The old assignment process further disadvantaged students whose parents were not sophisticated by keeping them out of the best schools that could give them a better quality education.
“If your assignment process puts those at-risk students at a further disadvantage,” Hammond said, “you’re making it even harder for them to succeed.” Using different algorithms is only one way that WCPSS experiments with leveling the playing field.
“They develop the hypothesis; I go into the data,” Hammond said.
As a result of recommendations made to the school system by the three economists, the process of determining which children may attend the most desirable schools no longer gives an advantage to parents who know how to be strategic.In assigning students to a particular school, WCPSS first considered students who had listed that school as their first preference, then seated students based on how high they scored on the WCPSS priority criteria.If any seats remained, only then did WCPSS consider students who had listed that school as their second or third choice.is a thoroughly researched, multidimensional look at popular support for student assignment policies in the Wake County, North Carolina, Public School System (WCPSS).The district, which educates nearly 150,000 children in 171 schools, is one of the nation's largest.Each of the ensuing studies starts with a particular hypothesis the researchers are testing and a specific analytical approach.“Wake County schools share data with us,” Hammond said, “and we, using our analytical tools, study the outcomes of the assignment process, using those data to better understand how alternative assignment processes lead to different outcomes.That way they could be assured of getting into a one of their desired schools, even though it wasn’t their true first choice.In their study, Hammond, Morrill and Dur referred to these students as “sophisticated students.” Families who listed their true top choice, even if they had very few WCS priority markers, were called “sincere students.” Many schools across the country conducted their assignment process the way Wake County schools did.The research that Hammond, Morrill and Dur conducted provided the first direct measure of the systemic differences in sophistication among students and their success in being assigned to their preferred school.At the time Hammond’s child was going through the assignment process, WCPSS asked parents and students to rank order their preference for individual schools.