From the Field

Research Notes: How Turning Around Schools Affects Neighborhoods

A $7 billion federal grant program designed to turn around struggling schools may have also turned around the nearby neighborhoods, leading to higher property values and pushing out some of the low-income families the program was intended to benefit, according to a recent paper from Vanderbilt University researchers Cameron Friday and Tucker Smith.

Their research focuses on the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program’s investment in Metro-Nashville Public Schools from 2009 to 2016 as a case study. The researchers found that after the investment, which averaged about $3,800 per student, home values in school zones receiving the federal grants increased 10.5 percent, compared to houses just outside the school zones; homebuyers were willing to pay on average about $13,100 more to move into a SIG school zone.

The federal investment resulted in moderate increases in income and racial integration in neighborhoods and schools directly after the program, but also displaced some current residents. New homebuyers in these school zones reported 9 percent higher income and were 13 percent more likely to be White than previous residents. The share of White students at affected schools increased by almost 20 percent. At the same time, neighborhoods saw a 35 percent increase in evictions and a 15 percent decline in students of color.

The researchers found similar trends around California schools that received SIG funding. All told, the federal program  pumped as much as $6 million into each of the 1,300 schools involved. The schools picked one of four transformation models, which included such steps as replacing the principal and some teachers, tying teacher evaluation system to student achievement growth, and increasing learning time.

These findings indicate that place-based improvements to schools may result in neighborhood changes that prevent investments from reaching the low-income minority students living in these neighborhoods before the investment.

Read the Research

Turning around schools (and neighborhoods?): School improvement grants and gentrification

April 2023

Cameron Friday and Tucker Smith