WHAT THE RESEARCH SHOWS
Howard County Families for Education Improvement believes Superintendent Michael Martirano’s Proposed Area Adjustment Plan, while well-intentioned, is ill-informed, may not improve the achievement gap in Howard County Public Schools, and may actually harm the very children we are aiming to help based on the following research:
- Howard County Public Schools are a model for integration. We acknowledge achievement gaps exist in Howard County Public Schools by race and socioeconomic status, DESPITE being the most integrated school district in the region. Therefore, a misguided effort focusing on “integrating” an already integrated school system will completely miss the root causes of the opportunity gap.
- A false narrative has been pushed that Howard County schools are the most segregated in the state. To the contrary, independent examination has shown these findings to be incorrect and based on seriously flawed statistical analysis.
- In fact, “Howard County is the most integrated school district in the region, according to the Maryland Equity Project of the University of Maryland. Children of different races — especially those who are black and white — are more likely to sit next to each other in Howard than almost anywhere else in the state.” (Source: Baltimore Sun, March 2017, “Within Integrated Schools, de facto segregation persists”).
- “The experience of Howard County — consistently ranked among the strongest public school districts in the nation — demonstrates that bringing students of different backgrounds together in the same schools isn’t enough to ensure their success. Where educators have long spoken of the achievement gap — the differences in academic performance between white students and black, and affluent and poor — some are now focusing on the so-called opportunity gap.” (Source: Baltimore Sun, March 2017, “Within Integrated Schools, de facto segregation persists”)
- Despite proponents’ claims of “decades of research” supporting socioeconomic integration as a mechanism to address the achievement gap, the research is in fact inconclusive. “It’s not clear from the research available today that socioeconomic integration alone would produce the hoped-for gains on the academic side of the integration equation. The research on the effects of socioeconomic integration, including studies frequently cited by the strategy’s proponents, is inconclusive.” (Source: A Reality Check on the Benefits of Economic Integration, FutureEd, Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy, Sarah A. Cordes PhD, August 26, 2019)
- Flaws of prior studies: Association does not equal causation & Selection Bias: “It is hard to conclude from these studies that attending a socioeconomically integrated school causes better performance. The results instead could reflect underlying differences in the low-income students who make their way to higher socioeconomic status schools.”
- Peer achievement, not socioeconomic status, drives academic improvement: “In a carefully controlled study of more than 130,000 students in Wake County, N.C., Caroline Hoxby of Stanford and Getchen Weingarth found that the improved academic performance of low-income students who moved to more affluent schools was mostly explained by these students being exposed to higher-achieving peers, and that the socioeconomic status of students’ peers and parents’ education (often used as an alternative measure of SES) had no independent effect. This suggests that peers’ achievement, rather than their economic status, was more important for improving test scores.”
- Importance of high educational expectations: “Rumberger and Palardy found in their national representative sample of more than 14,000 students that the relationship between school economic level and student performance was almost entirely explained by differences in teacher expectations, the amount of homework students do, the number of rigorous courses available to students… there’s no evidence that an affluent student population is a prerequisite for effective educational practices.”
- Misguided attempts to address the opportunity gap through socioeconomic integration, without any understanding of its root causes, poses harm to low-income students. Research shows that socioeconomic integration is associated with worse academic and psychosocial outcomes, particularly for African American and Latino students.
- A study of a nationally representative sample of 1,100 students by Richard Crosnoe of the University of Texas at Austin found that low-income students who attended higher income schools performed no better academically, had a slower progression through math and science courses, and had worse psychosocial outcomes.
- “As the proportion of the student body with middle- or high-income parents increased, low-income students progressed less far in math and science. Moreover, as the proportion of the student body with middle- or high-income or college-educated parents increased, low-income students experienced more psychosocial problems. Such patterns were often more pronounced among African American and Latino students.” (Source: Crosnoe, R. American Sociological Review, 2009 October 1; 74(5): 709–730)
- In a study supported by the Center for Poverty at UC Davis, a Harvard researcher found that redistricting can “hurt already disadvantaged students and communities. Parents whose main mode of transportation was either walking or the bus system expressed concern about their future ability to reach their child’s school in the event of an emergency… Many parents felt the increased commute would also prevent them from being actively involved at the school, or from enrolling their children in after-school activities.” (Source: Penn D. School Closures and Redistricting Can Reproduce Educational Inequality, Center for Poverty Research, University of California Davis. https://poverty.ucdavis.edu/policy-brief/school-closures-and-redistricting-can-reproduce-educational-inequality
- The 2019 HCPSS Equity Report, itself, suggests negative impact of the proposed plan by removing low-income students from their familial and neighborhood supports and increasing geographic and transportation barriers to beyond school opportunities, both of which are correlated in HCPSS data with higher graduation rates.
Contact information for the cited research and policy experts:
- Sarah A Cordes, Ph.D. Assistant professor at Temple University’s College of Education in the department of Policy, Organizational, and Leadership Studies. Her research focuses on the ways in which the urban context, including school choice, transportation, housing, and neighborhoods affect student outcomes. https://www.future-ed.org/contact/
- Robert Crosnoe, Ph.D. Associate Dean of Research, College of Liberal Arts; Rapoport Centennial Professor, Department of Sociology; The University of Texas, Austin. His research suggests harm to low-income students from socioeconomic integration. https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/sociology/faculty/crosnoer