The public charter school sector is coalescing around school quality. The goal is to support the growth of new, high-quality charter schools and close low-performing charter schools (see NAPCS’ response to NACSA’s One Million Lives Campaign).
What is striking is that the public charter sector is reaching a consensus around the need for strategic charter school closures. Conversely, you don’t often hear clamoring for closure of low-performing traditional public schools from district school supporters—whether it’s community nonprofits or teachers unions. Closures of traditional public schools have typically been proposed by local school districts or called for by the U.S. Department of Education, and public responses verge on outrage (see examples from Philadelphia, D.C., Chicago, and NYC).
School closures are upsetting for students, parents, teachers, school staff, and the community. However, recent research on the DC Closure Initiative, which closed or consolidated 32 elementary and middle traditional public schools the summer before the 2008-2009 school year, may provide some comfort to policymakers and educators contemplating school closures. The researchers found that student performance dipped in the first year after school closures, but rebounded by the second year. Moreover, students affected by school closures did not demonstrate higher rates of subsequent mobility. The study builds on previous research on the impact of school closures by RAND and the Consortium on Chicago School Research.
The findings from the study support the notion that making tough but necessary decisions to close chronically low-performing schools will ultimately ensure student access to better learning environments.