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NEPC’s December Education Interview of the Month Features a Discussion About Competitive School Choice in Chicago

BOULDER, CO (December 19, 2019) – In this month’s NEPC Education Interview of the Month, NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña speaks with Dr. Kate Phillippo, Professor of Cultural and Educational Policy Studies at Loyola University Chicago. In her book, A Contest without Winners: How Students Experience Competitive School Choice, Phillippo examines the impact of competitive school choice policies on the Chicago Public Schools.

Saldana and Phillippo discuss how choice policies in Chicago Public Schools have been shaped by market-based theories of educational equity. She explains that choice advocates describe school choice as an educational reform that affords freedom to parents by giving them the choice to select schools they want their children to attend. Phillippo argues, however, that “competitive school choice” in Chicago institutionalizes inequities by prioritizing factors that can be influenced by economic, cultural, and human capital, such as standardized test scores, in the admission process for highly selective/competitive public high schools. In addition, she finds that because the ability to enroll in these schools is described as being governed by an ostensibly objective process, parents and students are left to accept the outcomes as personal failures rather than outcomes that derive from a school choice system that promotes and widens inequity. 

In light of these findings, Phillippo has recommendations for parents and students as well as policymakers. She advises students and parents to recognize that these choice policies are unlikely to go away. Therefore, students and parents should inform themselves early on about the process of enrolling in their preferred schools. In addition, Phillippo recommends that policymakers look closely at the ways in which competitive school choice policies crystallize rather than overcome the educational inequality.

A new NEPC Education Interview of the Month, hosted by NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña, will be released each month from September through May. 

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All NEPC Education Interview of the Month podcasts are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

Coming Next Month

In January, Chris will be speaking with Daniel Markovits, the Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale Law School. In his new book, The Meritocracy Trap, Markovits argues that the belief that the U.S. is a meritocracy that decides society’s winners and losers based on effort and ability is a myth. 

Stay tuned in to NEPC for smart, engaging conversations about education policy.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: