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School Catchment Zones, Politically Defined School Boundaries

  • By: Meredith Page Richards & Kori James Stroub
  • In: Sociology of Education: An A-to-Z Guide
  • Edited by: James Ainsworth
  • Subject:Sociology of Education (general), Sociology of Education, Education Policy

School catchment zones, or school attendance zones, are political boundaries established by public school districts as the conventional means of assigning students to schools according to their residence location. To ensure that schools adapt to demographic changes in the community, school catchment zone boundaries are relatively mutable. In addition to determining students' direct access to schools, school catchment zones have considerable implications for societal equity.

Overview of School Catchment Zones

Because students generally attend different levels of schools at different points in their academic career (i.e., elementary, secondary, and high school), school districts are typically partitioned into sets of catchment zones corresponding with each school level. Because high schools are typically larger than middle and elementary schools, they usually have fewer catchment zones encompassing multiple elementary or ...

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