NEPC Review: School Closures and Student Achievement: An Analysis of Ohio's Urban District and Charter Schools (Fordham Institute, April 2015)
A recent report found a general increase in test scores of students displaced from closed urban schools in Ohio, who were disproportionately African American and low-income. Students displaced from closed charter schools showed gains in math but not reading, relative to students from non-closed schools; students displaced from district schools showed gains in math and reading. Gains associated with closure were greater for students who transferred to “higher-performing schools”—those with higher test scores. Overall achievement growth in receiving schools, however, decreased in the year that they accommodated displaced students. Although the finding that displaced students showed improvement in test scores is encouraging, several factors limit the study’s policy implications. The report itself cautions that the potential for test-score gains depends on the availability of higher-performing schools for displaced students, a condition often unmet. Forty percent of students in closed schools transferred to schools that were not higher performing. Also, because demographic data were not reported about the receiving schools, an alternative explanation—that displaced students benefited from transferring to schools with less economic and racial segregation—was not explored. School closure also raises moral and political questions about democratic decision-making and community voice.