Location, location, location–it matters in real estate, and the harsh reality is, it matters in student achievement, too. While wealthy Americans can pay for private school or move to a top-ranked district in suburbia, countless other parents are left with their neighborhood public school default. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course. But what if the choice is not good enough?
Montgomery County, Maryland, one of the nation’s top 20 wealthiest school districts, has one answer. Federally subsidized homes have been purchased by the government and used to offer safe rental housing for eligible low-income families. This arrangement sometimes referred to as “inclusionary zoning” or “policy-induced integration,” means that families whose incomes fall below the poverty line can relocate to homes in more affluent areas with better schools. A 2010 Century Foundation report by Heather Schwartz finds that students in public housing who were randomly assigned to low-poverty elementary schools outperformed their peers who were assigned to moderate-poverty schools in math and reading.