The Social Geography of Choice: Neighborhoods’ Role in Students’ Navigation of School Choice Policy in Chicago
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This study extends research on school choice policy, and on the geography of educational opportunity, by exploring how students understand their school choices and select from them within social-geographical space. Using a conceptual framework that draws from situated social cognition and recent research on neighborhood effects, this study explores the experiences of 36 students seeking admission to high school in Chicago Public Schools, a large urban district that offered 130 high school options the year of data collection. Our findings reveal that students’ choice processes were geographically specific, and mirrored spatial patterns of power and privilege in Chicago. This article concludes with a discussion of findings’ implications for socially and spatially equitable school choice policy, and for subsequent research on the geography of educational opportunity.
KeywordsSchool choice policy High school admissions Geography of opportunity Urban high schools High school students
The authors wish to thank Annmarie Valdes, Landis Fryer and Zareen Kamal for their assistance with data collection, preparation and analysis, David Treering for his preparation of this article's map figures, and Linn Posey-Maddox, Pamela Quiroz and The Urban Review’s anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on previous drafts of this manuscript.
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