Is closing a struggling school the right choice?

Hundreds of schools have closed in urban neighborhoods in recent years, mostly in low-income, minority neighborhoods. Would-be education reformers like Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City have argued that closure is the only way to turn around some persistently failing schools. Critics have argued that closing a school is a drastic step with collateral damage that education reformers haven’t considered. Are the pros worth the cons of closing a struggling school?

Hechinger’s Sarah Garland appeared on NBC to talk about the issue:

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It’s not the first time school districts have closed hundreds of schools in minority neighborhoods. The same thing happened during the desegregation of the nation’s schools nearly half a century ago. And back then, communities also protested.

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POSTED BY ON January 28, 2013

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The answer is in the question not asked which is what happens to students and the community once schools are closed. If school closings were genuinely about improving schools, raising achievement levels, that ultimately benefit students and communities, policymakers should want to research what if any disruption or inconveniences may occur and attempt to reduce them. But this hasn’t been the case, at least in Chicago. The practices of education reformers are eerily similar to those practiced by predatory lenders. Communities with desperate residents and parents looking for something that isn’t what they have had to experience the last 10-20 years may enthusiastically embrace the first shiny new thing that also mimics interest and concern for their well being. But not unlike predatory lenders, these new education reform organizations get their money off the top without demonstrating their effect, and often leaving many students in communities behind by either not having enough seats, or restricting the kinds of students they allow entrance. I fear this new reform will be more of the same.


Are schools really the community centers we think they are? In my experience, schools are little more than day care centers as far as parents and surrounding communities are concerned. Very little occurs at a school that has a community or even neighborhood impact other than standard teaching and learning and seasonal sporting events. Maybe the occasional dance, but that is only for attending students. Do that many schools actually invest in that kind of community identity?
Most of the schools I know of bus in or opt in students, so the school is just alive during class hours. It isn’t relevant to the environment it is in other than that.
That being said, closing schools or allowing charter or state takeover is the only sensible option.

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