Sunday, September 6, 2009

Matching children to classes

If the only thing that mattered about an elementary school class was the teacher, then matching children to classes would be simpler than it is (and more like school choice as we usually think of it). But it is a more complex problem when you take into account that it would be good if your child could be in a classroom with his friends, but without the kids who fight with him.

Slate has a story, Should parents meddle in their kids' classroom assignments?, which in turn prompted a post, the class matching problem, by Joshua Gans on his economics-and-parenting blog Game Theorist. (Gans' contribution to the "-onomics" library is called Parentonomics. He's also a prolific contributor to the econ- literature, and is likely to be a sabbatical visitor at Harvard in 2010. See my earlier post Market for ideas.)

In elementary school, kids have only one class. In high school, you have to assign each kid a bundle of classes. That makes the problem both harder—because bundles are hard, and there are complementarities—and easier, because one class isn’t divisible, but bundles are…you can give a high school kid some good classes and some bad ones, and have it come out to an ok schedule. Eric Budish has made some progress on this, although without worrying about putting friends in the same class (see my earlier post Course allocation, by Eric Budish )

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