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Since We Last Spoke: School Closures

Updates to stories from the Pacific Standard archive.

As Michael Hobbes reported in the August/September issue of Pacific Standard, a major school-reform movement in the 2000s sought to move students into smaller schools, based on the idea that small communities were essential for learning. Evaluations of these attempts pointed to school closures as the strongest route to smaller, better schools. But a new study from Stanford University finds school closures, on average, don't much help or hurt student performance The report—using data from 1,204 traditional public schools and 318 charter schools—looked at the effects of closing low-performing schools on the students who became displaced. A little less than half of the students pushed out of closed schools ended up in higher-performing institutions; the majority moved on to similar or worse schools.

The report sheds doubt on the efficacy of closures as a solution to struggling schools—bad news for an approach that reformers in urban districts have pushed.

The most reliable predictor for students' success in the Stanford study was the quality of the schools they moved to—a detail that should be scrutinized before students are displaced.

A version of this story originally appeared in the December/January 2018 issue of Pacific Standard.