The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has released a study on school closure with a look to how school closure affects the students who are then displaced.
"Lights Out: Practice and Impact of Closing Low-Performing Schools" reveals several findings, most of which are not terribly surprising. Closing schools doesn't really help the students who are displaced; if they are moved to a better school, they might do better, but otherwise, probably worse. Almost like being displaced and sent to a whole new school is distressing or something.
So no big surprises there, other than the fact that this is pro-reform CREDO talking. But amidst their other findings, we get this:
Closures of low-performing schools were not blind to socioeconomic status or race/ethnicity of the students who were enrolled. In both the charter and TPS sectors, and particularly in the lowest ventile of achievement, low-performing schools with a larger share of black and Hispanic students were more likely to be closed than similarly performing schools with a smaller share of disadvantaged minority students. Moreover, the closure rates for higher-poverty low-performing TPS in the bottom two ventiles surpassed the rates for lower-poverty TPS of similarly low performance. These observed inequivalent tendencies raise the issue of equity in decision-making about school closures.
To repeat-- all performance markers being equal, schools with more brown, black or poor are more likely to be closed down. And just in case that didn't see clear enough, they added in their implications section:
...our evidence suggests that closures of low-performing schools were biased by non-academic factors. In particular, closures were tilted toward the most disadvantaged schools such as the ones with higher concentrations of students in poverty and higher shares of black and Hispanic students, which raises the issue of equity in the practice of closures.
They continued that districts and administrators were "exposed" in this regard and might want to look at their procedures. In other words, shape up before someone kicks your ass in court.
Matt Barnum looked at the study and noted that it didn't answer four questions, including the question of why the inequity in school closures. What could it be?
One explanation is simple: racism and lack of political power.
Well, yeah. The head of the national association of charter authorizers admits that could be a problem:
“We are especially troubled by the
report’s observation of different school closure patterns based on race,
ethnicity, and poverty,” president Greg Richmond said in a statement.
“These differences were present among both charter schools and
traditional public schools and serve as a wake-up call to examine our
practices to ensure all schools and students are being treated
Barnum offers one other theory-- the opening of many charters near these schools puts more financial pressure on them by stripping resources and enrollment. But here we have a chicken-egg thing. And it replaces our old question with a new one-- why do charters focus on brown, black and poor communities.
But the staggering bottom line here remains-- we are closing schools that serve black, brown and poor students because they serve black, brown and poor students. How is that even remotely okay?