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April 8, 2016

Arlington’s housing program and the public school student achievement gap between north and south Arlington

Letter to the Arlington County Board April 7, 2016

Thank you again for meeting with the Greens regarding housing grants and other issues several weeks ago. We wanted to provide you some concrete data that can be instrumental in your consideration of expanding the housing vouchers program in the future. These numbers connect housing and education.

Academic achievement gap between North Arlington and west Pike schools is wide
Data illustrate there is a large achievement gap between south Arlington and North Arlington public schools. For example, below are the Standards of Learning (SOL) results for 2015/16 (three year average) for two south Arlington elementary schools on the west end of Columbia Pike, Barcroft Elementary and Carlin Springs Elementary. Both of these typically feed into Kenmore MS. The west end of the Pike has a large concentration of private market-rate affordable housing and committed affordable subsidized units (CAFs).
By contrast, if one examines the scores of students in some North Arlington schools (Tuckahoe Elementary and Williamsburg Middle School) the scores are much higher; results are the passing rate in percentage of students tested. https://p1pe.doe.virginia.gov/reportcard/
There are far fewer market-rate affordable and CAFs in North Arlington where SOL scores are highest.
Tuckahoe Barcroft Carlin Spring Kenmore Williamsburg APS avg. all students
English 92% 82 80 73 91 86
Math 92% 81 90 80 94 87
Science 95% 71 72 74 95 85
Share of students receiving
free or reduced lunch 3% 61 82 52 9 30

The share of students receiving free or reduced lunch is a widely accepted indicator of poverty among students; source: APS for October 2015 http://apsva.us//site/Default.aspx?PageID=33492

Young Graduates

The gap between the north and south Arlington elementary schools is as much as 24 percentage points on science, and as much as 12 percent points on English and math. The economic disparity as reflected in the share of students receiving free or reduced lunch is as much as 79 percentage points. There are almost no students receiving free lunch in the North Arlington elementary school, whereas between 61-82 percent of the two South Arlington School students receive free lunch.

This economic and academic gap persists in middle schools. Nearly half of Kenmore Middle School students receive subsidized lunch. About 9% percent of North Arlington Williamsburg Middle School receives meal assistance.
Academic research is clear that the socioeconomic status of the school does affect academic outcomes. For example, Richard Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation states, in A New Hope for School Integration, “In the last decade, the research has become even more convincing. A 2010 review of 59 studies on the relationship between a school’s SES (socioeconomic status) and outcomes in math found consistent and unambiguous evidence that higher school poverty concentrations are linked with less learning for students irrespective of their age, race, or family’s SES.” https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/Kahlenberg.pdf

Test scores of Arlington students above illustrate this situation.

Housing Grants are distributed countywide; they do not concentrate lower income recipients to a few neighborhoods. A larger number of housing grants would create economic diversity throughout the county; subsequently schools in all of Arlington would become more pluralistic. Rather than concentrating lower income students in a few schools along Columbia Pike where most recent CAFs have been built (e.g. Arlington Mills, Columbia Gardens, and Arlington Presbyterian Church site), children all over Arlington could learn together in a neighborhood school and live side by in the same neighborhoods.

No CAF units were built in north and northwest Arlington in the past four years
Over the past 10 years, the county has not met its housing target of geographically distributing new CAFs across the county. In the past four years, the county added about 1,200 new CAFs; none were added north of Lee Highway and in northwest Arlington. The county’s housing target was to add 300 new CAF units (25% of total new CAFs) in those areas—none were added.
http://arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2016/02/Annual-Affordable-Housing-Targets-Report-FY-2015.pdf page 26.

The current AHIF program enhances economic segregation. Economic segregation is associated with income inequality and even more so than with wage inequality. Its effects appear to compound those of economic inequality and may well be more socially, and economically deleterious than inequality alone. See Richard Florida, City Lab, “America’s most economically segregated cities,” http://www.citylab.com/work/2015/02/americas-most-economically-segregated-cities/385709/.

The result of Arlington’s current residential pattern in private housing is widening economic segregation among students in Arlington public schools. Moving forward, affordable public housing projects and programs should include integration that would result in the same in public schools without the necessity of the school board’s redrawing school boundaries.
We Greens believe that expanding housing grants across our community will decentralize lower income tenants, and dramatically help our public schools narrow the very wide achievement gap that better teaching methods and teachers alone cannot solve. The unintended consequence of our current AHIF program is to concentrate lower income students in already struggling public schools in a narrow section of our 22-square mile county.

The Arlington Greens

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