Does Student Performance Depend on Which Schools are Closed?

Closing Schools in a Shrinking District: Does Student Performance Depend on Which Schools are Closed? This report is based on a study by a group from RAND Corporation, Carnegie Mellon University, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., University of Pennsylvania, and Vanderbilt University. The study evaluates the impact of school closures on student achievement by analyzing student achievement growth before and after the closures when a school closure plan explicitly seeks to move students from low-performing schools to higher performing schools. The methodology is complicated and detailed. The results are interesting. Here are some excerpt from the study:

Overcapacity was great enough that the district closed 22 schools at the conclusion of the 2005-06 school year. In selecting schools to be closed, academic performance was not the only criterion, but it was the first priority. The district designed the closure plan with the principle that any students who had to be moved because their school was closed would be moved to a school at least as high-performing as (and ideally higher-performing than) the one they left. Our aim is to examine the extent to which the district’s approach succeeded in producing better results for students forced to move, without undermining the achievement of students who did not move.

This suggests that the district’s strategy of seeking to move students to higher-performing schools was well founded: students moving to higher-performing schools saw smaller declines in achievement, and those who moved to substantially higher-performing schools could have seen no negative impact at all, as the benefit of the higher-performing school cancelled out the negative effect of moving.

Overall, this suggests that closing schools can have adverse transitional effects for students in closed schools, but these effects can be offset by relocation to schools with stronger academic performance. Moreover, there is no evidence that the influx of new students has negative achievement implications for the students in the receiving schools.

The results suggest that if a district needs to close schools, then closing low performing schools and transferring students to higher performing schools can minimize any adverse effects.

Does this support the argument to keep Scenario 3 off the school closure list? Should Silverwood be closed under these assumptions? Should the District implement more programs like Monte Gardens and Sequoia in order to provide more successful school alternatives?


3 thoughts on “Does Student Performance Depend on Which Schools are Closed?

  1. The research clearly shows that poorly performing schools almost never make meaningful improvements, despite all of the typical district’s “school improvement” efforts. The culture and environment are so soured at that point that tinkering with the curriculum and the staff just doesn’t help much. Closing the school and reopening it with new leadership and new staff can help, but that is rarely done. The lesson is clear for any district that wants to listen: build on your successes, and be careful how much more time and dollars you invest in your failures.

  2. I am a teacher in the district and very interested in the MDUSD school closure situation. The quotes on closure impact in your most recent blog are quite intriguing. I would like to read the full study that was done. Can you provide the source of these quotes? What was the actual study?


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