Achievement increases when you close low performing schools and students transfer to better schools
Overall, the research increased my belief in the idea that great schools should expand and failing schools should be closed or transformed (the basis of the portfolio model).
My only reservation with this study is that it defined low-performing schools by absolute performance rather than growth in achievement; however, student achievement still grew when students moved from lower to higher absolute performing schools, so perhaps many of the low absolute schools were low growth schools as well.
The research adds to the body of evidence that shows: if you…
(1) Close lower performing schools;
(2) Increase the number of high-performing schools;
(3) Ensure students from the closed schools get into the higher-performing schools; then
(4) Educational opportunity will increase.
See below from CREDO on the student achievement effect of a student transferring from a closed school to a superior school.
One other thing: this type of analysis doesn’t capture the positive effect of the failing school no longer existing; a city implementing these strategies should see additional gains from no new students ever having to attend the failing school.
“Golden ticket” policies can ensure students attending closed schools get into better schools
Cities that use unified enrollment systems can easily guarantee that students leaving closed schools have access to better schools by a “golden ticket” policy. This policy gives students exiting closed schools first access to any open seats in high-quality schools in the city.
While I find the policy name “golden ticket” to be crass, it’s a policy that can do wonders for educational equity.
Too often students in failing schools are shuffled from one underperforming school to another; a golden ticket policy can prevent this.
Should we support increased school closures in majority white communities?
Numerous commentators pointed out that schools with +80% minority students were more likely to be closed than schools that had lower minority enrollment.
Most took this as a sign of inequitable treatment toward minority communities.
However, a growing body of research indicates that school closure increases educational opportunity so long as student have access to better schools. And although I wish this wasn’t the case, my hunch is that majority white communities likely have a higher concentration of better schools than your average minority community: this means that school closures are likely to be even more effective in majority white communities.
My guess is a lack of closures in majority white communities is leading to reduced educational opportunity.
School closure is incredibly hard
While I believe that thoughtfully implemented school closure policies will benefit children, I know that closing schools is hard for students, families, educators, and politicians.
But sometimes doing the hard thing can help students.
And a growing body of evidence is pointing to the idea that a well implemented school closures is one of those hard things that can ultimately make things better for students and communities.
Lastly: thinking of everyone in Houston right now. Really hoping that friends, colleagues, and everyone else in city are ok.