The impact of closing failing schools

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has released findings from a new study on school closures. The report, authored by Chunping Han and colleagues, systematically examines closure of low-performing charter and traditional public schools (TPS) in the US. A main goal of the study was to see whether children whose schools had been closed for poor performance do better or worse in their new schools.

The authors used existing longitudinally linked data that CREDO had developed in partnership with 26 state education agencies. They identified low-performing, full-time, regular (non-alternative) schools and closures in those 26 states from academic year 2006-07 to 2012-13. A total of 1,522 low-performing schools, including 1,204 TPS and 318 charters, were closed in the 26 states during the study period. To measure academic performance across the low-performing schools, the authors used scores from state standardised achievement tests.

Key findings of the study included:

  • A little less than half of displaced closure pupils landed in better schools.
  • In both the charter and traditional public school sectors, low-performing schools with a larger share of black and Hispanic pupils were more likely to be closed than similarly performing schools with a smaller share of disadvantaged minority pupils.
  • The quality of the receiving school made a significant difference in post-closure pupil outcomes. Closure pupils who attended better schools post-closure tended to make greater academic gains than did their peers from not-closed low-performing schools in the same sector, while those ending up in worse or equivalent schools had weaker academic growth than their peers in comparable low-performing settings.

Source: Lights off: Practice and impact of closing low-performing schools (August 2017), Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO)