Live Near a Great School? It's Costing You

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For the second time this week, a study came out identifying a relationship between where a child lives and his or her ability to attend a high-performing school.

Earlier this week a report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, which has financed efforts to obtain more money for city schools, found that poor and minority students have fewer opportunities to attend the city’s best public schools largely because of where they live.

On Thursday, as The New York Times reports in its Economix blog, the Brookings Institution issued a report that "found that housing costs in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas were an average of 2.4 times as high -- a difference of $11,000 a year -- for homes near schools whose average test scores put them in the top fifth of schools in the area, compared with schools in the bottom fifth."

This seems a matter of common sense -- and is certainly a truism in the suburbs, where the highest performing schools can be found in the towns and villages with expensive housing (and taxes).

But the author of the study, Jonathan Rothwell, a senior research analyst in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, had an interesting point to make, reports Motoko Rich.

“We think of public education as being free, and we think of the main divide in education between public and private schools,” Mr. Rothwell said in an interview. “But it turns out that it’s actually very expensive to enroll your children in a high- scoring public school.” Mr. Rothwell said that in the New York metropolitan area, for example, annual housing costs are $16,000 higher on average in neighborhoods near high-performing schools than in neighborhoods near low-performing schools, compared to the average annual tuition at Catholic schools of around $6,000.

The study also found that in metropolitan areas, the higher the level of economic segregation between neighborhoods and school zones, the wider the gap between test score averages.

Mr. Rothwell said that the study could not determine whether the average test scores at schools attended by low-income students fell below the average test scores at schools attended by higher-income students because low-income students had less academic support at home or because the quality of teaching was worse. But he noted that other studies showed that when students from low-income backgrounds attended schools with higher-income students and higher average test scores, those lower-income students improved their own test performance.

The New York education world was also buzzing on Thursday about a particularly ridiculous reading passage on the English Language Arts exams, involving a pineapple, a hare and a race.

Diane Ravitch tweeted about it Thursday morning, and the blogosphere and twitterverse had a field day attacking the work of Pearson, creator of the test.

Even adults were scratching their heads over the passage and the correct answer, as The Daily News reports on Friday.

Scarsdale Middle School Principal Michael McDermott said the question has been used before and “confused students in six or seven different states.”

And he had a quick answer to the question of who is the wisest:

“Pearson for getting paid $32 million for recycling this crap.”

The city confirmed the questions were on the exam, but declined to discuss any specifics, and Chancellor Dennis Walcott directed questions to the state.

Here is some of what is going on in education on Friday:

At 11 a.m., Mr. Walcott speaks at the STEM Careers for English Language Learners Fair at The Armory, 216 Fort Washington Avenue, at 165th Street, Manhattan.

Students at Middle School 22 in the South Bronx will participate in a moot court competition at New York Law school from 10:15 to 11:45 a.m., and 12:15 to 1:45 p.m. The event is the culmination of their work with Street Law, a program brought in by the assistant principal, Joshua Brookstein, "to instruct, guide and mentor young, at-risk kids in skills such as critical thinking and public speaking, as well as the rights of the people."

And on Sunday, high school students can hike over to the Javits Center for the National Association for College Admission Counseling college fair, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.