The Baltimore Region is Moving Towards Greater Economic School Segregation–in the Face of Recent Data Reconfirming the Educational Value of Greater Economic School Integration

September 2003 / Abell Reports / Education

A report to the community and recommendations for resolving the problem.

In the realm of educational research, there is little dispute about the paramount role a school’s socioeconomic makeup plays on the academic achievement of its students.

In 1998, report author David Rusk first explored the relationship between socioeconomic status and academic achievement in Baltimore-area schools in a report for The Abell Foundation. That study, which examined student achievement in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, found a very strong inverse statistical relationship between a school’s success rate on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) tests and the proportion of low-income children enrolled in that school.

In that report, Rusk concluded: “To be an educational fortune-teller, you don’t have to know the background of a school’s principal or its teachers, its expenditure per student, nor its average class size to have a pretty good idea what the school’s academic level will be. At least 80% of the answer lies in the circumstances of the children’s homes – and their neighborhood.” The Baltimore region is moving towards greater economic school segregation – in the face of recent data reconfirming the educational value of greater economic school integration.

That conclusion remains valid today, as the results of a new study of the Baltimore area demonstrate. In this case, Rusk analyzed student achievement not just in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, but in all 372 public elementary schools in the larger seven-county Baltimore region. Once again, this study of standardized test scores and demographics confirms the crucial role that socioeconomic status plays in educational achievement.