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Hammond, Morrill and Dur presented new algorithms for WCPSS to use in its assignment process that alleviated the need for parents to strategize.Changing the assignment process “made it so that if A is your favorite school and B is your second-favorite,” Hammond said, “you won’t hurt yourself by putting A first and B second, even if you have a very low chance of getting into A.” The partnership the researchers established with WCPSS has lasted for some four years.
“It was weighted toward sophisticated parents who knew strategic incentives,” Hammond said.
“Parents who didn’t play that strategic incentive potentially were at a disadvantage.
nly when Bob Hammond prepared to enroll his child in the very competitive Raleigh, NC-based Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) student assignment process did he notice how it favored sophisticated parents who knew how to game the system.
Hammond, an empirical economist and associate professor in the economics department at the NC State Poole College of Management, had some ideas on how to level the playing field.
That way they could be assured of getting into a one of their desired schools, even though it wasn’t their true first choice.
In their study, Hammond, Morrill and Dur referred to these students as “sophisticated students.” Families who listed their true top choice, even if they had very few WCS priority markers, were called “sincere students.” Many schools across the country conducted their assignment process the way Wake County schools did.In assigning students to a particular school, WCPSS first considered students who had listed that school as their first preference, then seated students based on how high they scored on the WCPSS priority criteria.If any seats remained, only then did WCPSS consider students who had listed that school as their second or third choice.“They develop the hypothesis; I go into the data,” Hammond said.As a result of recommendations made to the school system by the three economists, the process of determining which children may attend the most desirable schools no longer gives an advantage to parents who know how to be strategic.If you can reduce the strategic incentive, it levels the playing field.” As theorists, Morrill and Dur study how to design assignment processes.They have experience in matching, one application of which is school choice.is a thoroughly researched, multidimensional look at popular support for student assignment policies in the Wake County, North Carolina, Public School System (WCPSS).The district, which educates nearly 150,000 children in 171 schools, is one of the nation's largest.(Private schools only educate about one-tenth of the county's school-aged children.) WCPSS is a rare example of a large school district that is racially and economically diverse and is "alone among large districts across the nation in persisting with a diversity policy as a central feature" (106).Student assignments—either parent-initiated ones (applying to district magnet schools) or district-mandated ones (requiring attendance at a school to balance student populations along racial or economic lines)—form the heart of this policy.