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Impact of Proposed School Redistricting on Economic Integration

News

Impact of Proposed School Redistricting on Economic Integration

Rick Kohn

The Howard County Public School System Board of Education has proposed school attendance area adjustments (redistricting) to take effect in the 2018-2019 school year.

The school attendance area standards are set by Board Policy 6010. Section IV.3 of the standards addresses the preservation of diversity by different measures of the sending and receiving schools.

One measure is "The socioeconomic composition of the school population as measured by participation in the federal [free and reduced meals] FARMS program."

Currently, high school districts in Howard County vary greatly in percentage of low-income students. 

Enrollment in free and reduced meals (FARM) is often used as an indicator of the number or percentage of students of lower income.

Students are not eligible for FARM unless their family income is less than about twice the poverty line. 

Thus, distribution of FARM and non-FARM students across school districts is an indicator of the degree of economic integration of students.

The 2017 Feasibility Study concluded that the redistricting proposal neither increased nor decreased the degree of integration among FARM students.

The metric used to arrive at that conclusion was the standard deviation in percentage of FARM students among all schools, which did not change from the current value.  

Table 1 - Students Receiving Free and Reduced Meals (Click to Enlarge)

However, one can see from Table 1 that some schools have a disproportionate number of students enrolled in FARM compared to other school districts. Note that these are number of students in the school district categorized by high school. The data was obtained through MPIA Request Number 2018-004.

For example, Oakland Mills, Wilde Lake, Long Reach and Hammond have more than 65% of all the FARM students in the entire county.

In some cases, districts with fewer than 10% of students enrolled in FARM can border a district with greater than 30% of students enrolled in FARM.

While the proposed redistricting plan does not increase or decrease the standard deviation in percentage FARM across schools, and only affects a few schools. A granular look suggests that the proposed redistricting will not achieve the stated goal of improving economic integration.

Figure 1 - Population of Students on FARM

The overall picture of economic integration across the school district is depicted in Figure 1. Bold dots represent polygons with greater than 50 students on FARM.

Figure 2 - Populated Areas with Greater than 25% of Students on FARM

In Figure 2, the open circles represent polygons with greater than 25% of students on FARM and at least 25 students on FARM. Same format is used for following maps. Individual analysis of for schools with notable changes is provided below.

In order to increase the integration by income, schools that have a high number of FARM students should see the number decrease, and those that have a low number of FARM students should see the number increase.  

The proposed redistricting would have mixed effects. Redistricting would decrease the number of FARM students in two schools that have a high number, Long Reach and Hammond, and it would increase the number of FARM students in one school that currently has few, Atholton.  

However, the school that currently has the most FARM students, Oakland Mills, would see that number increase by another 2%, and there would be little change in the school with the second highest number, Wilde Lake.

Furthermore, the number of FARM students in Atholton would overshoot so that it would have more FARM students than two of the schools bordering it, Long Reach and Hammond, but not two others, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake.

The following maps and graphs show how the redistricting plan proposed for 2018 will affect distribution of low-income students across school districts. 

Atholton High School

Atholton High School demographics change significantly and many students would be moved. 

Atholton loses wealthier neighborhoods to River Hill and Hammond, and gains a mixture of districts from Hammond, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake. 

Note that currently, nearly the entire district lies to the west and south of the school, which are higher income areas. 

Since the western schools are under-enrolled and the eastern schools are over capacity, most districts have been shifted to the east of the school building. 

Altholton is an exception. After redistricting, the Atholton district would lie nearly entirely to the east of the high school building.

Figure 6 shows the current FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are polygons proposed to remain in or move to Atholton. For example, the bold symbols from Oakland Mills High School would be moved to Atholton after the redistricting.

Figure 7 shows the proposed FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are currently in Atholton. For example, the bold symbols in River Hill are currently in Atholton and will move to River Hill after the redistricting.

River Hill High School

Although River Hill is immediately to the west of lower income neighborhoods currently attending Wilde Lake HS, the proposal is to shift River Hill District to the south and east pulling in only high-income neighborhoods currently from Atholton HS District. 

River Hill demographics do not change as it gives up high-income neighborhoods to Gleneg and receives high-income neighborhoods from Atholton.

Figure 11 shows the current FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are polygons proposed to remain in or move to River Hill. 

Figure 12 shows the proposed FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are currently in River Hill.

Oakland Mills High School

Currently, Oakland Mills includes many low-income areas and wealthier neighborhoods to the north and southwest. 

The proposal is to remove the wealthier neighborhoods to Wilde Lake and Atholton, as well as some lower income neighborhoods to Atholton, and receive lower income neighborhoods from Long Reach and Hammond.

Figure 16 shows the current FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are polygons proposed to remain in or move to Oakland Mills High School. 

Figure 17 shows the proposed FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are currently in Oakland Mills High School.

Wilde Lake High School

Few changes were made to Wilde Lake.  Relatively high-income areas were moved in from Oakland Mills HS and were moved out to Atholton HS.

Figure 21 shows the current FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are polygons proposed to remain in or move to Wilde Lake High School. 

Figure 22 shows the proposed FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are currently in Wilde Lake High School.

Long Reach High School

Long Reach takes some lower-income neighborhoods and higher-income neighborhoods from Howard, and gives some lower-income neighborhoods to Oakland Mills.

Figure 26 shows the current FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are polygons proposed to remain in or move to Long Reach High School. 

Figure 27 shows the proposed FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are currently in Long Reach High School.

Hammond High School

Low income polygons are proposed to be moved out of Hammond to Oakland Mills HS.  Some higher income areas of Atholton HS are traded for low-income areas of Hammond HS.

Figure 31 shows the current FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are polygons proposed to remain in or move to Hammond High School. 

Figure 32 shows the proposed FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are currently in Hammond High School.

Howard High School

Although bordering on an area with low-income students, Howard continues to run along the wealthier side of Route 108, and loses both lower and higher income neighborhoods to Long Reach HS.

Figure 36 shows the current FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are polygons proposed to remain in or move to Howard High School. 

Figure 37 shows the proposed FARM population (number of FARM students per polygon) by high school district. Bold symbols are currently in Howard High School.