A new study about Montgomery County schools in Maryland could add some fuel to the fight over socioeconomic integration in Wake County schools.
As reported in the Washington Post, a study coming out today shows that low-income students in Montgomery County performed better when they attended affluent elementary schools instead of ones with higher concentrations of poverty. At 144,000 students, Montgomery County is only slightly larger than Wake County.
The study tracked the performance of 858 elementary students in public housing scattered across Montgomery from 2001 to 2007. About half the students ended up in schools where less than 20 percent of students qualified for subsidized meals. Most others went to schools where up to 60 percent of the students were poor and where the county had poured in extra money.
After seven years, the children in the lower-poverty schools performed eight percentage points higher on standardized math tests than their peers attending the higher-poverty schools - even though the county had targeted them with extra resources. Students in these schools scored modestly higher on reading tests, but those results were not statistically significant.
As the article notes, Montgomery County has been uncommonly aggressive in seeking to improve the performance of students in schools with higher poverty.
It has divided the county into a high-performing, more-affluent green zone and a high-needs red zone, where schools receive about $2,000 more in per-pupil funding. And yet, the low-income students in the study performed better in the green-zone schools.
There really hasn't been an equivalent study done in Wake County. The school district did try a study several years ago but said it was inconclusive. Later attempts by school board member Ron Margiotta before he was elected chairman to request such as study went nowhere.
All this is taking place before tomorrow's Great Schools in Wake Coalition forum in which nationwide and statewide studies are likely to be discussed to pitch the benefits of socioeconomically diverse schools.