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Monday, 22nd November 2010

In Montgomery County, Maryland, Economic Housing Integration Promotes Academic Achievement, Says Century Foundation Report

In Montgomery County, Maryland, Economic Housing Integration Promotes Academic Achievement, Says Century Foundation Report (PDF)
Source: Century Foundation

The education reform debate is dominated by efforts to make high-poverty schools work better, but a new report released by The Century Foundation suggests that a more promising strategy involves providing low-income families a chance to live in more-advantaged neighborhoods, where their children can attend low-poverty public schools.

The Century Foundation study, Housing Policy Is School Policy, conducted by Heather Schwartz of the RAND Corporation, compares two strategies being used by Montgomery County, Maryland, that have shown promising results for their public schools, a highly acclaimed system that is a finalist for the prestigious Broad Prize in education. On the one hand, Montgomery County school officials have poured extra resources into about half of the district’s higher- poverty elementary schools designated as being part of the “red zone.” The extra resources allow for specialized instruction, reduced class sizes in grades K–3, and intensive teacher development. On the other hand, the county’s “inclusionary zoning” housing policy, dating back to the mid- 1970s, creates an opportunity for the children of low-income families in public housing to attend more-affluent “green zone” schools in the county (which spend less per student than red zone schools). Under the housing policy, developers of large subdivisions are required to set aside 12– 15 percent of units for moderate- and low-income families, and the public housing authority can purchase up to one-third of the apartments. Schwartz’s study traces the academic progress of 850 public housing students in red and green zone elementary school between 2001 and 2007.

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