On November 3, BRHP had the honor of hosting Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury for our third and final BRHP in Conversation event of the year. Just as quality housing is the foundation for wellbeing, a quality educational foundation opens doors to new possibilities and allows for maximizing one’s personal potential.
Unfortunately, we also know that like quality housing, receiving a quality education is often predicated on where you live, which disadvantages many students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Racial biases also impact the education students receive in some of the same classrooms of their peers of similar economic backgrounds.
A key focus of housing mobility programs like ours is to help children from high-poverty neighborhoods access high performing schools. BRHP serves over 8,000 children, 6,400 of which are school-aged and 67% attend schools in opportunity areas. In addition to a desire to learn of Superintendent Choudhury’s experience in addressing educational barriers for children escaping poverty, we were also inspired by our current participation in the Century Foundation’s Bridges Collaborative. This is a nationwide initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in education. It was our hope that the discussion would strengthen our partnership and strategies for school integration and equity across the Baltimore region.
Superintendent Choudhury kicked off the event with an insightful presentation titled Blueprint Deep Dive: Neighborhood Indicators of Poverty. In the presentation he provided a high-level overview of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which he described as “the most important state education law that’s been passed in the current era.”
He also provided a background on poverty, how it’s measured in education, and why measuring poverty matters for resource allocation. When thinking about poverty, it’s important to view it as more than a matter of wages or income. Superintendent Choudhury described poverty as many factors that come together to impact a person’s life trajectory and outcomes. It shapes the type of housing you can access, health outcomes, the types of teachers and resource you have, the levels of crime around you, life expectancy, and more.
Notably, he shared that the largest factor shaping student outcomes is socioeconomic status, and the largest school-based factor is the teacher in front of them each day. The presentation also included the limitations of data and the impacts of concentrations of poverty.
In bringing it to a local understanding, Superintendent Choudhury shared Maryland’s timeline and progress towards a neighborhood indicator of poverty, and how it could be applied across the state. Lastly, he touched on his previous work in San Antonio and Dallas in using neighborhood poverty indicators to successfully increase opportunities and improve achievement rates for students disproportionately affected by systemic barriers.
Following his presentation, Superintendent Choudhury engaged in dialogue with BRHP Executive Director Adria Crutchfield and our housing and education partners on the call. During the conversation he shared how a trip to his family’s village in Bangladesh inspired him to pursue a career in public education. He also shared more about the Blueprint’s priority of expanding Pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. In expressing some of his priorities, he shared the need to have an intermediary organization to assist families in accessing schools, creating pipelines for recruiting diverse teachers, and incentivizing more “grow your own” teacher programs across the state.
When asked what we as housing and education partners can do to support, he urged us to continue formalizing our partnerships. He also expressed a need for federal funding to support these types of cross-industry partnerships. With the Department of Education planning to finalize a strategic plan in the summer of 2022, Superintendent Choudhury shared that an immediate priority for him is engaging the communities across the state to help inform major items of the plan.
Superintendent Choudhury concluded the conversation with a call to action for leaders who design policies around poverty and prioritize funding for communities and neighborhoods: stop recreating high poverty, segregated schools! As proponents for school integration, equity, and the opportunity for all students to have access to the best education, we couldn’t agree more.
We thank Superintendent Choudhury for joining us. We look forward to being a partner in the transformative work his office will undertake through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future to put more Maryland students on a path to academic success.
You can watch the full video replay of the conversation on our YouTube channel here. If you have guest speaker recommendations for future BRHP in Conversations, please email them to email@example.com.
Tiffani Long is the Senior Communications and External Affairs Manager at the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership.