Economy Dept. Explores Affirmative Action in Schools

Simon Northrip
Staff Reporter


Lisa Barrow pictured above. Courtesy of Chicago Fed.

Students perform better at selective high schools, according to Lisa Barrow, senior economist and research advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

On Sept. 28, 2018, Roosevelt University hosted an Affirmative Action lecture headed by the department of Economics. The speaker was Ph.D Lisa Barrow an affiliated researcher in education at the University of Chicago.

Barrow presented research on the effects selective high schools had on disadvantaged children in the Chicago area not including the suburbs. The test for the research was to see if there was a significant difference or benefit for disadvantaged children in Chicago attending selective high schools in Chicago. For reference, selective high schools are high schools that admit students based on their score on an entrance exam that has a certain point tally or grade that must be met for the student to be accepted to attend the high school.

General comparison between Chicago Public Schools and selective high schools in Chicago showed a stark difference in performance. “The point being that they have pretty significantly higher ACT composite scores, more students are enrolled in AP classes, they have higher graduation rates, higher college going rates, lower suspensions,” Barrow said.

The main component of the research was finding significant differences in outcomes of education between the lower tier students, Tier 1, which are majorly black and hispanic students and the higher tier students, Tier 4, which are majorly white and asian students in selective high schools.

“We come down that there is no evidence that selectives improve outcomes more for students from disadvantaged neighborhoods and there is some evidence, potentially, that they are doing worse, but selectives generally have positive effects student’s perceptions of their high school experience,” said Barrow, summarizing  the conclusion of the data her and her research team gathered in their tests and surveys.

The evidence from Barrow’s data that points to students from disadvantaged neighborhoods potentially doing worse is, “Selective enrollments lower the GPA, and we think this likely through the negative impact on incoming class rank and this negative effect is larger for Tier 1 students than Tier 4 students,” Barrow said. “We found that selectives reduce the probability that a Tier 1 student enrolls in a selective college based on enrollment data.”

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