School Choice and Inequality: Choosing Schools Activity


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This in-class activity is designed to illustrate how school choice (i.e. charter schools and private schools) contribute to the growing inequality of schools by social class and race. In this activity, students are split into groups and are given a family profile that includes their income, race, family structure, neighborhood school zoning, and geographic distance from each available school (including whether busing is available and estimated time). Each group must decide which school to send their child to based on the school profiles for the 5 schools, which include information such as student demographics, test scores, and school type. After each group makes their decision, the students report back to the class their group’s demographic information and their choice(s) for schools. The instructor then facilitates a full class discussion about choices, structural limitations for some families, and the implications for inequality. The activity thus allows for active participation that engages all students, enables students to role play with different resources and perspectives, and demonstrates how individual family choices are both constrained by structures and reproduce inequality.


Resource Type(s):
Class Activity 
Alanna Gillis 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Class Level:
Class Size:

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
Students will role play and understand how family background constrains the educational opportunities of students from different racial, class, and other backgrounds.
Assessment 1:
By working in small groups students will weigh the school options based on the constraints of their family profile. They will compare their school selection with other group selections when all demographics and choices are written in a table on the board.
Goal 2:
Students will understand how residential segregation and school zoning practices reproduce racial and class inequality in the education system.
Assessment 2:
Through in-class discussion and viewing a visual map of the geography of the families and schools, students will hear and debate how residential segregation and school zoning practices reproduce inequality (and optional post-class quiz to assess).
Goal 3:
Students will understand how school choice opportunities (i.e. private and charter schools) may provide mobility pathways for some individual students but overall reproduce structural inequality by race and class.
Assessment 3:
By examining the different family decisions and through in-class discussion students will hear and debate different opinions about the impact of school choice on inequality for individuals and on a structural level (and optional post-class quiz to assess)

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Choosing Schools Activity Powerpoint.pptx
Choosing Schools Activity Revised.docx
Choosing Schools Activity.docx