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Uneven Playing Field: Demographic Differences and High School ‘Choice’ in Philadelphia

Every fall, eighth graders participate in the School District of Philadelphia’s high school application and admissions process, vying for spots in a tiered system of public high schools across the city. This policy brief looks at disparities in the students who are successful in exercising school ‘choice’ in the District’s high school selection process. We found that Blacks, Latinos, males, and special education students were less likely than other groups to complete applications, and also less likely to be ultimately enrolled at a school of their choosing. These disparities were especially great at special admission high schools. The brief provides recommendations for school district reforms to reduce inequities and further research to examine their root causes.