Edwards, D.S. (in press). Education Finance and Policy.
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School transportation may increase student outcomes by providing a reliable and safe means of getting to and from school. Little evidence of the effects of such policies exists. In this paper, I provide some of the first causal evidence of transportation impacts on student attendance and achievement using a rich panel of student-level enrollment and address data for Michigan public school students and a unique dataset of district transportation policies for the largest 50 districts in Michigan. I exploit the walking distance cutoffs that determine transportation eligibility using a regression discontinuity design. I find that transportation eligibility increases attendance rates and lowers the probability of chronic absence. These effects are largest for economically disadvantaged students, who experience 0.5 to 1 percentage point increase in attendance rates and a 2 to 4 percentage point decrease in the probability of being chronically absent. These results are compelling evidence that school-provided transportation increases attendance for students most at-risk to miss school. However, I find no effect of school transportation on student achievement outcomes. Given the high costs of school transportation, targeting additional transportation services to chronically absent students as an attendance intervention may be more efficient than increasing bus services for all students.
By Danielle Sanderson Edwards and Joshua Cowen. Last Updated: February 2021
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Families’ abilities to participate in public school choice programs may be constrained by residential and school location. We provide some of the first evidence of the role that residential mobility and commute time to school in entry into and exit from inter-district and charter school choice. Using a unique panel of student enrollment and address data, we describe residential mobility patterns, calculate commute times, and estimate a set of hazard models predicting exit from formal choice policies for Michigan students. We find that the majority of students who exit choice programs change residences. Additionally, students have a higher probability of leaving choice programs the farther they travel to school past their assigned school. We conclude that residential mobility and commute are likely significant determinants of families’ school choice decisions, especially in their decision to remain in choice programs, and should be considered in future school choice policies and research.
By Danielle Sanderson Edwards and Joshua Cowen. Last Updated: June 2020
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While most national attention surrounding school choice has centered on families’ decisions to enroll in charter schools, students can also enroll in neighboring school districts outside of their home districts through interdistrict choice programs. We examine Michigan’s statewide interdistrict choice program known as “Schools of Choice.” A particular feature of Michigan’s Schools of Choice program is that districts that participate in Schools of Choice can place limits on the number of students they will accept and in which grades, schools, and programs, set enrollment deadlines, and decide whether or not to offer transportation to non-resident students. Such local discretion has the potential to create unequal access to school choice. We analyze original data collected from 84% of Michigan districts as well publicly available school-level data to report differences in local rules and regulations governing Schools of Choice. We find that most districts that participate in Schools of Choice limit participation of nonresident students, one-third require enrollment as early as the previous spring or winter, and few districts provide transportation to non-resident students. Districts located near poorer districts or districts with higher rates of students of color—especially those located around metropolitan areas—require early deadlines and restrict access to school transportation for students living outside of their districts.
Edwards, D. S. (2021). Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.
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Research concerning family preferences for schooling indicates that they value proximity to home as much as academic quality when choosing schools. However, preferences for proximity likely represent inability to access schools farther away from home, especially for disadvantaged students. I test whether distance and district boundaries constrain access to high-performing and effective schools for Detroit students where families choose between intradistrict, interdistrict, and charter schools, as well as an assigned school. I employ a unique data set that includes enrollment records, addresses, and commute times for Detroit residents regardless of where they attend school. Results show that disadvantaged students have little access to the highest quality schools available, specifically those outside Detroit. However, students attend higher performing schools within Detroit.
Edwards, D.S. (2021) Journal of School Choice.
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Although there exists a large body of literature concerning the impacts of school choice policies, few studies focus on the choices of rural students. Using a unique dataset that includes administrative records, geocoded addresses, and commute times for Michigan public school students over 6 years, I describe who participates in interdistrict choice in rural Michigan, where 15% of rural students attend a nonresident district. In particular, I examine the roles of commute time and school closures in choice decisions – two factors that may be particularly salient in rural communities. I find that gaps in participation in interdistrict choice between rural and non-rural districts exist in kindergarten and persist across grades. Furthermore, I provide evidence that students who live farther away from their assigned school have lower opportunity costs to participate in interdistrict choice especially in rural districts. Also, school closures may induce students living farther away from their assigned school to attend a nonresident district in remote rural areas.