…a new report from the Thomas Fordham Institute, a think-tank, may encourage future closures of bad schools, because it suggests that they are good for students. Researchers looked at 23,000 displaced pupils from shut-down district and charter schools in eight Ohio cities between 2006 and 2012. Ohio’s urban public schools have long struggled with competition from charter schools and declining populations (the state’s eight largest cities have lost more than 50,000 students in the past eight years). Those who stayed found themselves in empty or failing schools.
Critics argue that shutting schools destabilises and, in some cases, derails the academic progress of pupils. Not so: the Fordham study found that closures ultimately benefit pupils from wretched schools. Once a school had closed, most of the children ended up in better ones, where they eventually got higher grades. Three years after the closure, children were found to have gained the equivalent of at least an extra month of learning in their new schools. Those who went from a failing charter school to a high-performing one did even better, gaining 58 more days of learning in reading and 88 days in maths.
Most of the closed district schools were in deprived areas. Nearly three-quarters of the children were black and more than 90% were poor. The report concluded that “though fraught with controversy and political peril, shuttering bad schools might just be a saving grace for students who need the best education they can get.”