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Report: Zoning Impacts Student Achievement Gap (Participation)

April 19, 2012

Report: Zoning Impacts Student Achievement Gap

A report from the Brooking Institute argues that residential zoning restrictions are adding to the gaps in standardized test scores by Adam Bednar

A city like Baltimore, that is desperately trying to improve its schools, should take a look at its neighborhoods’ zoning, according to a report released on Thursday.

The report, which was released by the Brooking Institution, claims that cities with the least restrictive zoning have a reduced cost gap in housing, that decrease creates more economically diverse schools that have lower test score gaps.

“In particular, limiting the development of inexpensive housing in affluent neighborhoods and jurisdictions fuels economic and racial segregation and contributes to significant differences in school performance across the metropolitan landscape,” the report reads.

The report found that neighborhoods in northeast metro areas, with what it calls “relatively high” levels of economic segregation, had that highest test score gap between low income and high income students.

The Baltimore-Towson metro area was among the top 10 in the nation in terms of the split between high and low income students’ test scores on standardized tests.

But the report also found that city’s in the southeast, such as Washington D.C. and Raleigh, and western cities, like Portland and Seattle, had smaller than expected test score gaps between low income and middle/high income students.

Simply moving to an area with a better school could also be a daunting prospect for residents hoping to send their kids to higher scoring schools. In the 100 largest metro areas, housing near a high performing public school costs $11,000 a year than housing near a low performing school, accoridng to the report.

The report also argues the best way to eliminate these achievement gaps may be to “forbid local governments from discriminating based on housing type (e.g. single-family attached or multi-family) or size (lot, floor, or frontage size).” But it recognizes that kind of “aggressive” action is less likely to happen, but that some policies, such as “increasing the portability of housing vouchers” could help address these achievement gaps.


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