Study: Closing Schools Doesn’t Increase Test Scores

*Jan 26 - 00:05*

 

You might be tempted to file this under ‘No Shit, Sherlock.’

But a new study found that closing schools where students achieve low test scores doesn’t end up helping them learn. Moreover, such closures disproportionately affect students of color.

What’s surprising, however, is who conducted the study – corporate education reform cheerleaders, the Center for Research on EDucation Outcomes (CREDO).

Like their 2013 study that found little evidence charter schools outperform traditional public schools, this year’s research found little evidence for another key plank in the school privatization platform.

These are the same folks who have suggested for at least a decade that THE solution to low test scores was to simply close struggling public schools, replace them with charter schools and voilà.

But now their own research says “no voilà.” Not to the charter part. Not to the school closing part. Not to any single part of their own backward agenda.

Stanford-based CREDO is funded by the Hoover Institution, the Walton Foundation and testing giant Pearson, among others. They have close ties to the KIPP charter school network and privatization propaganda organizations like the Center for Education Reform.

If THEY can’t find evidence to support these policies, no one can!

After funding one of the largest studies of school closures ever conducted, looking at data from 26 states from 2003 to 2013, they could find zero support that closing struggling schools increases student test scores.

The best they could do was find no evidence that it hurt.

But this is because they defined student achievement solely by raw standardized scores. No other measure – not student grades, not graduation rates, attendance, support networks, community involvement, not even improvement on those same assessments – nothing else was even considered.

Perhaps this is due to the plethora of studies showing that school closures negatively impact students in these ways. Closing schools crushes the entire community economically and socially. It affects students well beyond academic achievement.

The CREDO study did, however, find that where displaced students enrolled after their original school was closed made a difference.

If Sally moves to School B after School A is closed, her success is significantly affected by the quality of her new educational institution. Students who moved to schools that suffered from the same structural deficiencies and chronic underfunding as did their original alma mater, did not improve. But students who moved to schools that were overflowing with resources, smaller class sizes, etc. did better. However, the latter rarely happened. Displaced students almost always ended up at schools that were just about as neglected as their original institution.

Even in the fleeting instances where students traded up, researchers noted that the difference between School A and B had to be massive for students to experience positive results.

Does that mean school closures can be a constructive  reform strategy?

No. It only supports the obvious fact that increasing resources and providing equitable funding can help improve student achievement. It doesn’t justify killing struggling schools. It justifies saving them.

Another finding of the CREDO study was the racial component of school closings.

Schools with higher populations of blacks and Hispanics were more likely to be shuttered than institutions serving mostly white students. In addition, schools with higher poverty populations were also more likely to be closed than those serving middle class or rich children.

Yet you really don’t need an academic study to know that. All you have to do is read the news. Read about the closings in Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit – really any major metropolitan area.

The fact that CREDO admits it, only adds credence to arguments by critics like myself.

It is no accident that poor black schools get closed more than rich white ones. Poor students of color are targeted for this exact treatment.

Corporate education reform is not just bad policy; it is racist and classist as well.

Greg Richmond, President of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, was shocked by these findings.

“We are especially troubled by the report’s observation of different school closure patterns based on race, ethnicity, and poverty,” he said in a statement. “These differences were present among both charter schools and traditional public schools and serve as a wake-up call to examine our practices to ensure all schools and students are being treated equitably.”

But his industry benefits from these practices. Just as CREDO’s backers do.

Never has our country been less prepared to deal with the real problems besieging it. But if the time ever comes when sanity returns, we cannot simply go back to familiar habits.

School closures and charter school proliferation are bad no matter who proposes it – Republicans or Democrats.

Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, regardless of who represents us in federal, state and local government, we have to make sure they do the right things for our children.

That means learning from our mistakes. Beyond partisanship. Beyond economics.

It’s the only way to build a better world.

CREDO’s study just adds fuel to the fire surrounding the regressive education policies of the last decade.

If we’re ever in the position to hold a match, will we have the courage to strike it?

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10 thoughts on “Study: Closing Schools Doesn’t Increase Test Scores

  1. I’m retiring at the end of this school year. I can’t tell you how sick i have become of these clueless geniuses of school reform who take years to come to conclusions that anyone with a scintilla of common Sense could have seen in minutes. Meanwhile a whole generation of students have been devastated by their ideological fantasies and adamant refusal to see the historical realities of racism and classism.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Lloyd Lofthouse and commented:
    The greed-is-great corporate reform movement to replace the public sector, including the traditional public schools, with for-profit corporate schools has FAILED while destroying one of the best public school systems in the world that other countries once studied and copied. In other words, the “Make America” slogan that Trump used was working hard decades ago to Make America White and Poor Again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I re- posted this at Oped news https://www.opednews.com/Quicklink/Study-Closing-Schools-Doe-in-Best_Web_OpEds-America_Corporate_Education_Policies-170826-895.html#comment671093
    with this comment
    “Read a s Diane Ravitch, explains The Broken Promise of School Privatization: https://dianeravitch.net/2017/06/18/detroit-the-broken-promise-of-school-privatization/

    “Also, Howard Ryan, writing in Monthly Review, analyzes the sources of support for corporate reform and privatization: https://monthlyreview.org/2017/04/01/who-is-behind-the-assault-on-public-schools/

    Ryan writes: “Over the past three decades, public schools have been the target of a systematic assault and takeover by corporations and private foundations. The endeavor is called “school reform” by its advocates, while critics call it corporate school reform. Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg has given it the vivid acronym GERM–the global education reform movement. Its basic features are familiar: high-stakes testing; standardized curricula; privatization; and deskilled, high-turnover faculty. In the United States, public schools have become increasingly segregated, destabilized, and defunded, with the hardest hit in low-income communities of color.
    Nevertheless, while the political conflicts and social ramifications of the school reform phenomenon are well known, basic questions about the movement remain underexamined. Who really leads it? What are their aims and motives? After briefly taking up the statements of the reformers themselves, I will turn to the views of their progressive opponents, and offer a critique of three influential interpretations of the school reform movement. Finally, I will present my own theory about this movement, its drivers, and its underlying aims”
    A large body of research, however, challenges the merits of high-stakes testing and other elements of the corporate school reform package. It is also at least questionable whether the reformers really believe their own statements.
    The reformers’ interest in school improvement appears, in a number of ways, to be less than genuine, to mask a different agenda. They prescribe models for mass education that they do not consider suitable for their own children. They sponsor think tanks to produce “junk research” praising their models, while ignoring studies that contradict their models. They insist that full resourcing of schools is unimportant or unrealistic, and that “great teachers” will succeed regardless of school conditions, class size, or professional training.”

    You will find it interesting to see how he weaves together the various strands of the corporate reform movement.

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  4. I met a young teacher at a school with one third disabled students whose parents were attracted by the excellent programs. Yet despite their success, the school was closed due to low standardized test scores.

    It’s time we abandon this one-size-fits-all approach that backfires on our neediest students.

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  5. It’s an important issue that CREDO addresses regarding impacts on students who attend a school that is being closed.

    But far more kids experience the impacts after a closure… kids who would have gone to the closed school but didn’t.

    What do we know about those effects?

    Well there’s this from The Research Alliance for New York City Schools at NYU/Stenhardt

    “Closing high schools produced meaningful benefits for future students—i.e., middle schoolers who had to choose another high school because the school they likely would have attended was closing. These students ended up going to schools that were higher performing than the closed schools, both in terms of the achievement and attendance of incoming students and on the basis of longer-term outcomes. In addition, “post-closure” students’ outcomes improved significantly more than students in the comparison group, including a 15-point increase in graduation rates”

    High School Closures in New York City: Impacts on Students’ Academic Outcomes, Attendance, and Mobility (2015) James J. Kemple

    http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/research_alliance/publications/hs_closures_in_nyc

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  6. Steven,

    I’d like to send you a copy of my book “Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractice in American Public Education”. In it I discuss the purpose of American public education and of government in general, issues of truth in discourse, justice and ethics in teaching practices, the abuse and misuse of the terms standards and measurement which serve to provide an unwarranted pseudo-scientific validity/sheen to the standards and testing regime and how the inherent discrimination in that regime should be adjudicated to be unconstitutional state discrimination no different than discrimination via race, gender, disability, etc. . . .

    Please email me at duaneswacker@gmail.com with your address and I’ll send it off to you.

    Thanks,
    Duane

    Like

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