Relocating poor families to less-poor neighborhoods doesn’t lead to improved academic achievement, according to the fall issue of Education Next.
A randomized evaluation of the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) program — a federal housing program piloted in five major U.S. cities that sought to relocate poor families by providing housing vouchers — shows that, contrary to expectations, moving families out of high-poverty neighborhoods has no overall positive impact on childrenâ€™s learning.
Comparing families that won the housing lottery with those who didn’t, researchers saw no difference in children’s reading or math scores or in behavior or attitudes toward school; there also was no effect on retentions in grade or suspensions.
Schools in the new neighborhoods had slightly higher test scores and slightly lower percentages of poor and minority students. It’s possible that moving the poor to truly affluent neighborhoods with high-scoring schools might make a difference, the authors say. It would cost a lot of money, of course.
The research is here.
In Baltimore, parents who used vouchers to move often didn’t enroll their children in better schools, Stefanie DeLuca writes. Parents didn’t see school quality as important; they believed learning depends on hard work and a good attitude.
Many MTO parents told us about frightening conditions in their childrenâ€™s schools and their concern for their childrenâ€™s well-being. Yet these fears and realities did not always translate into efforts to remove their children from these environments. Poor mothers and their children juggle myriad extreme conditions, and schooling is not always on the top of the list.
John Edwards’ education plan calls for housing vouchers to move the poor to better neighborhoods — that is, more funding for Moving To Opportunity — as well as spending more on magnet programs to lure middle-class students to inner-city schools. I wonder if he’ll respond to the research.