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At closing schools, ups, downs, and unanswered questions

The decision to close schools is rarely as clear cut as the Department of Education makes it out to be, Javier Hernandez reports in today’s Times. Often, the schools that Chancellor Joel Klein decides to close aren’t the very lowest-scoring. On top of that, closing schools often demonstrate capacity for improvement as they diminish in size. From the article:

[Randi] Weingarten noted that some schools marked for closing have shown significant improvement in their dying days. For example, at five schools that were marked to be phased out — a process that typically happens over several years to limit disruption for their students — students’ performance was so much improved that staff members were given cash bonuses this year; city officials explained that closed schools are often able to foster better relationships with students as enrollment dwindles.

Last month, I reported in the Village Voice about what happens to schools after they are slated to close. The good news is that the DOE provides specialized attention for closing schools directed specifically at making sure every student either graduates or enrolls in an appropriate program once their original school ceases to exist. The DOE’s student-by-student assistance helps explain why some previously low-performing schools see a bump in their final years.

Of course, knowing more about what the DOE does to help schools that are closing doesn’t answer the essential question in today’s Times piece: Why are some struggling schools shut down while others remain open, enrolling new students year after year?

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