Property development has a direct link to student test scores in public schools, according to a new study by the Brookings Institution.
The report says areas with restrictive zoning laws about the type and cost of housing—have wider gaps in school performance. It also means gaps in educational opportunities that can impact a student’s economic future.
Here are a few specific findings from the study called Housing Costs, Zoning, and Access to High-Scoring Schools:
• Housing costs an average of 2.4 times as much, or nearly $11,000 more per year, near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring public school
• Students from middle and high-income families attend better-performing schools than low-income students
• The less restrictive the zoning, the smaller the gaps
Out of the 100 largest metropolitan areas, the study ranks Nashville-Middle Tennessee in the top third at 27th for gaps in test scores that are linked to housing. The average middle to high income student here attends a school where test scores are 26-percent higher than a school attended by the average low income student.
Some researchers say it’s a form of economic segregation in schools– prompting some districts to look at removing residential barriers to school integration.
“We see a potential there—for changing the mechanism for this transfer option from within school systems or intra-district choice to inter-district choice,” says Dr. Claire Smrekar of the National Center on School Choice and professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. “But there must be, there has to be some federal incentives, some federal supports that go along with that kind of option to provide transportation… and thinking very deeply about what school district lines might be transferrable, what school districts lines would provide a pathway from moving kids from failing schools into schools that are thriving.”
Metro Nashville schools are already moving toward a more open choice enrollment plan—working with city officials to address issues around public transportation for students. And if education is considered a solution to bridging the gap between rich and poor in this country, other schools districts might be compelled to look at ways to open up opportunities for students across district lines.