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Network Maps and School Choice in Chicago

Tuesday, August 20, 2013   (0 Comments)
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Geography Matters for Students Seeking Better Schools

The Chicago Public School system this year closed 50 low performing pubic schools  and opened a number of new charter schools on the theory that a free market approach to education would aid students and encourage poor schools to get better. Scientific American blogger Kama Gowda, a Northwestern University graduate student in math, thinks the approach has promise, with a catch. He reports that network mapping based on a vast collection of student history and score data shows there are subdistricts within the city where if students do change schools, they are likely to switch to one that is only marginally better. As an example, he presents two unconventional maps, redrawn to show travel time as experienced by students in North Lawndale and Old Town, two city neighborhoods. Kids in Old Town, home of Walter Payton College Prep, a highly selective magnet school, have much faster and easier routes through the city than their peers in North Lawndale, the site of the closed underperforming Mason High School, who will have a longer and harder challenge navigating a route to any better school. Not all neighborhooods are well connected by public transportation, and some gangland territories and violent areas create "impassible" travel barriers, Gowda says.  


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