From the Field

Research Notes: Longitudinal Impacts of the METCO Program

For decades, debates have swirled about the best ways to eliminate educational disparities based on race and economic status in the United States. One approach has been through programs like the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, or METCO, launched in 1966 to desegregate Boston-area schools by allowing urban students to attend better-resourced suburban schools. A new study, led by Professor Elizabeth Setren of Tufts University, has found that the program produces both short- and long-term benefits for the students in the program.

Setren compares outcomes for METCO participants with students who applied to METCO but did not win the lottery to attend a suburban school and finds that math and English test scores of Boston students participating in METCO improved, their attendance was better, and they had fewer suspensions, both before and after a state law reduced the use of suspension as a disciplinary measure. METCO students were also more likely to complete high school, attend college and graduate than their peers who applied but did not win spots in the program. Yet they were not more likely to earn high SAT scores, take more AP classes, or attend the most selective colleges.

Notably, the study also finds no negative impacts on the classroom experiences or academic achievements of suburban students due to the integration of METCO students.

These outcomes suggest that METCO not only enhances educational opportunities for urban students but does so without compromising the educational experiences of students in the host communities.

Impacts of the METCO Program: Longitudinal Research Reveal

Elizabeth Setren

January 2024