The demand for French immersion education in Vancouver so far outstrips the supply that the school board allocates places by lottery.
But why? Is it because French is a useful employment skill? Because learning to speak French makes you a better person? Or is it because parents know intuitively what economists can show econometrically: peer effects matter. Being with high achieving peers raises a student's own achievement level.
Consider this point quoted in that article:
If students with special needs were equally distributed among all classes, each teacher would on average have 3.4 students with special needs. However, in schools that have early immersion programs, the average in core English programs is about 5.7 students.
I think that it is quite possible that these results could be applied to charter schools with long waiting lists in the United States. Why does this matter?
Because the use of lotteries could otherwise be considered to be a form of randomization. But it seems odd that being taught in a second language would result in better educational outcomes, per se. Which suggests that Frances Woolley has a point that peer effects really do matter and we should consider this when evaluating outcomes in US charter schools.
Update: Of course, I forget to mention that Mark brought up this exact point at the beginning of our foray into education.
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