New Report Finds JCPS Student Assignment Plan a Plus

by Devin Katayama on April 19, 2012

A new report released by the Brookings Institute shows Jefferson County students may be less affected by economic segregation than students in other large cities.

The report matches the largest 100 cities’ zoning laws and housing markets against achievement gaps and access to better schools. The report partly concludes that stricter zoning laws make it harder for low-income students to attend better schools.

Study author and Louisville native Jonathan Rothwell said that’s because strict zoning laws usually result in more economic segregation. This, in turn, leads to larger gaps in test results between schools attended by low income and middle and high income students.

The reported shows Louisville has fairly strict zoning laws compared to other cities (ranked 19 out of 100), but Rothwell said the student assignment plan likely makes the city somewhat of an exception.

“There definitely does seem to be a connection. These policies are intended to make schools more economically or racially integrated especially after the recent Supreme Court ruling focuses on economics. But they seem to work,” he said.

Other cities and districts with student assignment plans have seen similar success, he said.

The report further shows that Jefferson County ranks 54 out of 100, when measuring higher housing costs (2.2 times higher) near high-scoring elementary schools compared to housing costs near low-scoring schools.

Education Week further reports “as in the case of Louisville, new developments may only affect individual neighborhoods and influence the economic make-up of a few schools.”

Author Nirvi Shah points to examples like NuLu’s Liberty Green, which is being developed into a mix-income, mix-use community, as ways cities may turn away from economic segregation.

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