The Futility of School Closings

This article is re-printed from the website of US blogger Jan Resseger. The title is amended as suggested by Diane Ravitch

In her profound and provocative book about the community impact of Chicago’s closure of 50 so-called “underutilized” public schools at the end of the 2013 school year, Eve Ewing considers the effect of school closures on the neighborhoods they once anchored.  Ewing’s book, Ghosts in the Schoolyard, is about Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood and a set of school closures in Chicago in which 88 percent of the affected students were African American, and 71 percent of the closed schools had majority-African American teachers. (Ghosts in the Schoolyard, p. 5)

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NSW Government Agrees to Reform School Closure Procedures

The NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, has accepted the recommendations of a Parliamentary committee report to improve the consultation process on proposed school closures. The report had slammed the approach by the Department of Education to closing schools as “heavy handed”, ignoring the views of parents and local communities of small schools and failing to provide evidence on the relationship between education outcomes and small schools.

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Closed for Learning: The Impact of School Closures on Students and Communities

Closing public schools not only has a negative impact on student performance but also creates hardship for communities already struggling with disinvestment. The Stanford Centre for Opportunity Policy in Education, the Journey for Justice Alliance, and the Advancement Project sponsored a forum in December entitled “Closed for Learning: The Impact of School Closures” to brief members of the US Congress on the impact of community school closures in low-income neighbourhoods. The following is a brief prepared for the forum.

From the onset, the U.S. public education system has been wrought with challenges. It has never been a perfect system. Yet, for the past 15 years, the education reform movement has exploded – backed by investors and philanthropists that have sought to privatize education by capitalizing on our flawed accountability system and its over-reliance on high-stakes testing, high-stakes teacher evaluations, and high-stakes grading of schools.

Today, the interests of children of colour are being sidelined by the interests of philanthropists, hedge fund owners, and venture capitalists with their sights set on public education dollars and investments in inner-city neighbourhoods. The result has been massive takeovers of school districts and school closures across the country, particularly in Black and Brown neighbourhoods, which studies have found do not actually improve the academic futures of the displaced students they propose to help.

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NSW Parliament Committee Slams Education Department on School Closures

A NSW Parliamentary Committee report has slammed the approach by the NSW Department of Education to closing schools as “heavy handed”. It says the Department failed to properly consult with communities affected by proposed school closures, was not impartial in dealing with communities and ignored research evidence on the value of small schools educationally and to small regional communities. It makes ten recommendations to improve consultation about school closures. 

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Case Studies in Consultation Failure on School Closures by the NSW Department of Education

The report by the NSW Legislative Council Select Committee on the closure of public schools in NSW is a damning exposure of the failure of the NSW Department of Education to seriously consult about proposed closures. The report includes the following three case studies.

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NSW Govt Conducted a War Against Small Rural Schools

The NSW Legislative Council report on the closure of public schools shows that the Department of Education conducted a war against small rural schools. Some 36 public schools have been closed under the Baird Government.

The following is a media release on the report by NSW Greens MP, John Kaye.

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Submission to NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into the Closure of Public Schools in New South Wales

The arguments for closing and amalgamating schools are based primarily on two presumed benefits: financial savings and better student achievement. However, these claims generally turn out to be over-simplifications when the full evidence is analysed.

In considering potential closure of schools, governments should carefully analyse the educational, financial and social impact on students, their families and the general school community. Governments frequently fail to fully investigate these impacts before closing schools.

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Closing Small Schools May be Ineffective and Inefficient

School size is a much debated policy issue. Closing small schools is a sensitive policy issue for many inner urban and country communities in Australia with low or falling enrolments as governments seek to reduce costs.

Arguments for closing small schools and consolidating enrolments into larger schools stem from two presumed benefits of larger schools: first, larger schools promote better quality teaching and learning and, second, they do so at lower costs than smaller schools, that is, larger schools are more economically efficient.

A new paper published by the OECD reviews the literature on the impact of school size on school outcomes and efficiency. It raises a number of issues that should be considered before closing small schools. It shows that small schools may provide better school outcomes for students, especially at the primary school level and for lower socio-economic status students. It also shows that the efficiency benefits of consolidating students in larger schools may be offset to some extent by other financial and social costs.

The following is a summary of the paper. Parts have been edited for ease of reading. Continue reading “Closing Small Schools May be Ineffective and Inefficient”

ACT Legislation Is A Model for Consultation on School Closures

The consultation on school closures by the Tasmanian Greens Minister for Education, Nick McKim, is a sham. It is restricted to only four weeks, which is not nearly enough time for school communities to prepare their case. The impact statements prepared by the Minister amount to a list of benefits of closing schools and fail to spell out the full effect on families and communities.

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Study Says that School Closures are Unlikely to Deliver Financial Savings and Education Improvement

When governments are looking to save money, they often turn to school closures as the answer, as has been seen in every Australian state and territory in recent years. It is a worldwide phenomenon. It has been going on in many states and school districts in the United States in the last few years. Continue reading “Study Says that School Closures are Unlikely to Deliver Financial Savings and Education Improvement”