Low-Income Housing Tied To Low School Success

This is not news, but it still makes depressing reading.

Research has shown again and again that we only need look at the zip codes of students to predict what their scores on standardized tests will be. Numerous studies have demonstrated that children of affluence score higher on standardized tests than children of poverty.

And now a new report from the Brookings Institution confirms that test scores at schools with high concentrations of low-income students are significantly lower than schools in the same areas where most students are from middle- or high-income families.

How Is This Study Different?

Senior research analyst Jonathan Rothwell  said his research is among the first to explicitly link economic segregation and zoning practices, and tie the results to access to high-quality schools. In this case, quality was determined by state test scores calculated from data listed on GreatSchools.org.

From Education Week:

“I haven’t seen anything that tries nationally to document the financial barriers that low-income families face to get into high-scoring public schools,” Mr. Rothwell said, noting that charter schools and voucher programs are some of the more-popular methods used to help families get around having access only to district-run schools near where they live. “I do think zoning is an underlying problem.”

Using test scores from schools in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, Rothwell found that housing costs an average of 2.4 times more—close to $11,000 more per year—near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring one.

Housing prices can be a barometer of zoning practices because near high-scoring schools, the homes are typically larger and fewer and more expensive than in the areas surrounding low-scoring schools. Zoning regulations that intend to keep population density low segregate cities and towns by race and income, according to the study released today.

It shows that the average low-income student attends a school that scores at the 42nd percentile on state exams, while the average middle/high-income student attends a school that scores at the 61st percentile on state exams.

Northeastern metro areas with relatively high levels of economic segregation exhibit the highest school test-score gaps between low-income students and other students.

Politically Charged Process Of Housing Construction

Deciding where different types of housing will be constructed in a given city can be a highly politically charged process, and there are few drivers for changing existing housing patterns, Mr. Rothwell said.

Modern zoning practices came about in the 1920s, along with the rise of the automobile, making living farther away from urban centers more practical. Suburbs emerged, created by families who felt they were losing political power in cities. In their own cities and towns, they could create housing laws and schools in a way that suited them, Mr. Rothwell said, adding that reforming these entrenched systems is unlikely to happen without the involvement of the federal government.

How To Tackle These Disparities?

School boards have found some ways to circumvent long-established living patterns, an issue they have struggled with since schools were required to be desegregated almost 60 years ago. Complex patterns of busing students emerged, magnet schools were created, and some districts have eliminated school boundaries based on geography.

Some charter schools and some magnet schools have also performed miracles, but these are in the minority.

This study proves yet again that it’s impossible to tackle school issues  in isolation; schools are a part of the community where they are located, and inextricably linked with the overall condition of that community. The achievement gap and poverty levels go hand-in-hand.

What do you think? What can we do about the achievement gap?

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Photo Credit: MikeFett


Azle B.
Azle B5 years ago

Pesticide like malathion is sprayed in the public housing homes.

Azle B.
Azle B5 years ago

Improvements in the heating and cooking methods away from the poorly ventilated gas furnaces and cook stoves would improve everyones health.

Linda T.
Linda T5 years ago

I've always thought that the best way to over come provety is by having the poor live among us. Everyone needs a role model.

Steve N.
Steve N5 years ago

Let's see. Taxpayers pay their rent, give them food stamps and health care, free breakfast and lunch when they get to school, and they still can't study?

Patrick F.
Patrick f5 years ago

Duhhhh wait what?

Randi Levin
Randi Levin5 years ago

Excuse my language and cokiness BUT NO SHIT!
Wow, and to think that NCLB offers their mass of funds to high performing schools and takes it away from those in need or just closes a poor performing school.
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND was one of the worst things ever mandated for our pulic schools for it segregates and is ineffective toward determing a child's intelligence and future!
And on top of this the Chef Move to Schools programs are getting healthier foods into higher income schools, some of the grants went to Private Schools and alot went into Maryland schools--which are just above Washington DC in proximity!

BOTH of these governmental projects are failing our children most in need of help, are failing to provide the funds and possibly health!
EX: There is a new HS in my county--semi-affluent area. They got tiled floors lots and lots of windows, lots of computers and the option of healthful foods in the cafeteria. HOWEVER, this is another school in this county/school district in n area of middle to lower income and their floors are old and dirty, they cannot afford to place compuetrs in each class and cannot afford books for all their students.
So I ask is it right to spend million building a state of the art HS, while other schools in the same school district simply struggle daily to just get by!??

John Mansky
John Mansky5 years ago

Knowledge is power,therefore one should go for all there is...

Berny P.
berny p5 years ago

We should acknowledge that some human beings are simply more intelligent than others and are going to do better, low income housing or not!

Unfortunately the term "all are created equal" does not apply to intelligence, nor does it apply to willingness to work hard and achieve.

Carol C.
Carol Cox5 years ago

These kids don't need "mansions". they do need however, parents with better selfesteem, maybe by finding and keeping a decent job and so, provide better for their families... this is achieved by keeping American Jobs in America...instead of supporting imports....

Guillermo Ramon
Guillermo Ramon5 years ago

Wow, Steve R., you bring real solutions. What should we do? Call them lazy? Think. You talk about intelligence, then use it. With many people badly trained at the elementary and middle school level we will have more crime, worse workers, more inequality. I know that for "superior people" inequality does not sound like much. However, cross the border going south and you will see the results of inequality, poorly prepared people, lower taxes, and people liker you that consider the poor as lazy.
When we think education, we do not care or consider whether the parents are lazy, motivated, ignorant, or whatever. Judging the parents leads nowhere. The only considerations that are needed are how is the environment affecting learning, and how to correct it.
Want to have a debate about who is intelligent and who is lazy, start it on a special blog for it.