Can Schools Fairly Select Their Students?

Theory and Research in Education 16 (3):330-350 (2018)
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Selection within the educational domain breeds a special kind of suspicion. Whether it is the absence of transparency in the selection procedure, the observable outcomes of the selection, or the criteria of selection itself, there is much to corroborate the suspicion many have that selection in practice is unfair. And certainly as it concerns primary and secondary education, the principle of educational equity requires that children not have their educational experiences or opportunities determined by their postcode, their ethnic status, first language, or family wealth. Indeed educational opportunities determined by unearned advantage or disadvantage offend against basic notions of fairness. But are public schools even permitted to select their students, and if so, how can selection procedures used by schools be best structured to achieve equitable ends? In this article we delineate, describe, and defend what we believe are the essential features of selection and also why we need to pay equal attention to both the outcomes and the processes leading to those outcomes. Provided the selection is motivated and guided by the right reasons, as well as appropriately monitored, we argue that selection can be equity promoting.
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