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Lotteries in School Admissions

Lotteries are one mechanism elementary and secondary schools in the United States use to determine which students to admit. Lotteries involve the random selection of students to be admitted from among a larger group of eligible applicants. The use of admissions lotteries in the United States has gone hand in hand with policies promoting public school choice. Lotteries allow choice policies to be implemented in a manner viewed as fair and equitable. A side benefit of lotteries is that random selection of students for admission can be a natural experiment used by researchers to measure schools’ impacts on student outcomes. This entry describes how lotteries have developed in conjunction with various forms of school choice in recent decades. It then describes how lotteries work, presents ...

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