Modeling Market–Based Reforms in Education


Wednesdays@NICO Seminar, Noon, March 17 2010, Chambers Hall, Lower Level

Prof. Robert Dean Malmgren, Northwestern University


In this talk I will discuss applying the ideas and tools of complexity science to education-al policy. In particular, I will present a paper that addresses the difficulties involved in evaluating the impact of choice-based reforms in education (e.g., vouchers, charter schools) by developing a series computational, agent-based models that capture the dynamic processes involved in moving from a non-market to choice-based system. Us-ing historical data from Chicago Public Schools to estimate and set initial conditions, analysis of the models reveals how differences in capacity constraints across districts can result in uneven treatment effects across school choice programs, and suggests an approach of indexing results across contexts. Simulations also reveal how an increasing focus on school quality at the household-level can eventually lead to a less competitive structure and lower levels of district achievement – a paradoxical mismatch between micro- and macro-levels of behavior.