Tag Archives: school closure

CREDO, Bill Clinton, Two Requests


This might be the most powerful chart on the charter movement. It appeared in CREDO’s national study.

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The graph demonstrates how aggregate charter school performance would increase in Math (they also have a graph for reading) under 5 closure scenarios.

Scenario B involves closing all charter schools that achieve significantly less growth than traditional schools. Under this scenario, aggregate charter school performance in math would be a .08 effect size (in reading, charters would achieve a .05 effect).

In short, there is one policy – close all charter schools that achieve significantly less growth than traditional schools – that would firmly establish charter schooling as a high-quality education intervention.

Note: charter schools already achieve .05 effect sizes with African-American students in poverty.

Bill Clinton 

“If you’re going to get into education, I think it’s really important that you invest in what works,” Clinton said. “For example, New Orleans has better schools than it had before Hurricane Katrina, and it’s the only public school [district] in America where 100 percent of the schools are charter schools.”

But the reforms shouldn’t stop there, he added. “They still haven’t done what no state has really done adequately, which is to set up a review system to keep the original bargain of charter schools, which was if they weren’t outperforming the public model, they weren’t supposed to get their charter renewed,” he said.

I wish Bill Clinton had reached out to me before erroneously claiming that New Orleans has not held up the original charter school bargain. To date, 100% of charter schools in New Orleans that have not achieved their academic goals have been closed. I know this from both data and personal experience. Four of the thirty schools or so that I was a part of launching were eventually closed for poor performance.

Two Requests

1. The many mediocre charter authorizers out there need to close their worst schools. If they don’t, the state should revoke their license to authorize. To their credit, many leaders of the charter school movement are pushing hard on this issue.

2. Anyone who begins a sentence “bad charter schools need to close” should end the sentence with “and the great ones should be allowed to expand.” Too often, anti-charter reform advocates are very vocal on closing bad charters but very silent when it comes to expanding the best.

In sum, everyone needs to live up to the bargain.

HT Mike Goldstein for raising some of the above issues.

Should the Government Ever Close a Public School for Poor Performance?


I’m not sure.

Here are things I’m somewhat sure (70%?) about:

  1. State governments should require all K12 schools that receive public funds to take a singular, rigorous test that is administered in a manner that reduces cheating.
  1. State governments should create a letter grading system that assigns letter grades to schools based on their performance on this test. These letter grades should be weighted at least 50% toward growth.
  1. City government and non-governmental organizations should widely publicize these letter grades.
  1. State or city governments should operate an efficient, centralized enrollment process that only requires families to submit one form when ranking school preferences.
  1. Funding should be allocated to schools based on how many students they serve, as well as how at-risk this student population is.

Here is one thing I have promoted in the past but remain unsure about:

  1. Government should close or reconstitute a school that consistently receives a “D” or “F” rating – even if parents desire to send their children to this school.

In short, I believe there are huge information problems around the quality of education schools are delivering, and I’m willing to sacrifice a significant amount of school autonomy (in the form of standards and assessments) to provide information on school quality to parents (and to the general public).

Additionally, I’m willing to sacrifice some amount of statistical precision to ensure that this information is digestible to parents.

However, I also believe that:

  1. Parents should have power to choose schools that they feel will serve their children well.
  1. Test scores aren’t everything.
  1. While I generally support the data governments currently use for accountability, I can imagine a world where I did not.
  1. The political costs of closing schools are very high.
  1. Choice reforms might be much more accepted by the public if they were not connected to school closure.
  1. Over time, good information and open enrollment access could lead to the closure of many of these poorly rated schools anyway (due to under-enrollment) – so that student achievement could increase faster over the long run due to less political battles.  

Much of this is based on my experience in New Orleans, where letter grades, coupled with centralized enrollment, has increased the percentage of parents making high-quality choices (as measured by test scores, which are not perfect, but generally a useful measure) – and where we received significant pushback in closing schools.

Or to put it another way, reform might be better off if a superintendent could say:

“This school is closing because the community did not feel it was good enough to send their children here. Next year, we will open a school in its place that hopefully better meets the needs of the community.” 

Of course, the transformation process could still be politically difficult. But it might be perceived as (and be) more legitimate.

Whatever you might believe on this issue, the tensions between achievement, efficiency, community, and liberty will not being going away anytime soon.