Moving doesn’t help poor kids in school

Moving low-income families from very poor to less-poor neighborhoods didn’t improve children’s reading or math scores, concludes a follow-up study of the Moving to Opportunity program. Ten to 15 years after moving, children were no more likely to complete high school, enroll in college or be employed, compared to similar children who stayed in high-poverty neighborhoods.

More than 4,600 low-income families in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York received vouchers to move to better neighborhoods between 1994 and 1998. “After moving, the average family lived in a neighborhood with half the poverty rate of its previous neighborhood,” reports Ed Week. “Moreover, the families generally moved to neighborhoods with a third fewer violent crimes than their original ones.” However, most students remained in high-minority and relatively high-poverty schools.

Adults reported better physical and mental health after the move. Children felt safer in the their new homes. Girls were less likely to become obese. But girls did no better in school and boys did worse. Even children who moved before age 6 showed no academic benefits, researchers found.

Low-income parents need more than a safer neighborhood, writes RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation. They need school choice and information on how to find quality schools for disadvantaged students, especially black males.

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  1. Having seen a SES-integration program in action, I don’t think that ending ” zip-code segregation” is the answer. First, the “good” schools in the affluent, leafy suburbs are very likely to use the same weak, flawed curriculum choices as the “bad” schools; it’s up to the parents to provide real coursework (by parents, tutors, Kumon etc). Second, the SES-integration kids tend to arrive several years behind their middle-plus agemates and are therefore in need of serious, intensive remediation – a heterogeneous classroom is not the place for that and homogeneous classes keep the same kids together. It’s necessary to remember that there is a correlation between those living in affluent suburbs and a whole constellation of desirable traits, habits and behaviors, NOT the causation so many people want to find. Living in the suburbs doesn’t cause the characteristics; the causation is in the opposite direction – the characteristics enable the financial success that lets those exhibiting the characteristics to live in desirable areas. Concentrate on enabling choice, charters and vouchers in the cities and convincing more schools of all kinds to make better curriculum and instructional choices.

  2. John Thompson says:

    As I explain below, some “reformers” like RiShawn Biddle will gloat over the study’s findings and cherry pick them to promote their opinions.
    But, we can’t copy their close-mindedness and we must recognize how hard it is to improve schools whether by socio-economic integration or by other means.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Right, A call for greater paternalism dressed up as compassion – check that, I’m sure you are compassionate. But still you fail to grasp why progressive strategies continually fail. Preference bias, I guess.

  3. The 800 pound gorilla in the room – you can’t move and have your genetic and upbringing / cultural disadvantages magically erased. Nice try, though.

  4. Sorry….been a teacher in low income area for last 4 years after being in average schools & attitude from dependency is number 1 problem… many times have I heard when exhorting to read because it makes them employable….”?why to I need a job? My parents don’t have jobs?…..

    • If that’s true, then we’re doomed. Our society is done for.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      ….”?why to I need a job? My parents don’t have jobs?…..

      There’s no way kids in low income schools said this. They don’t have parents. They have moms minus dads.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    Stands to reason that poorly-prepared kids aren’t going to magically improve by being streamed with better-prepared kids. Some issues might help; less class disruption, less apprehension about going to school, less validation from one’s classmates about not doing the work.
    What doesn’t seem to follow is that girls are less likely to be obese. Where does that come from and is it possible that it might be, whatever it is, applied to the issues of education.
    Talked with an attendance officer at a low-SES school about attendance and parental pressure. Kids don’t need to graduate to game the system–it was a fat system (CA)– and never work, she said. Like their parents.