October 24, 2017

Matthew Gaertner, (650) 823-4320, matt.gaertner@sri.com
Ben Kirshner, (303) 492-6122, ben.kirshner@colorado.edu
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

National report on school closure misses opportunity to illuminate moral dimensions of school closure

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Oct. 24, 2017) — A report from the Hoover Institution's Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) offered a comprehensive analysis of the impact of closing low-performing schools. The report included data from 1,522 low-performing schools from 26 states. An academic review finds the report to be a valuable addition to the research on school closures.

Matthew Gaertner, SRI International, and Ben Kirshner, University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed the report, Lights Off: Practice and Impact of Closing Low-Performing Schools, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Though the report obscures some of its most important findings, Gaertner and Kirshner describe the report as one of the most comprehensive datasets ever assembled for school closure research. The reviewers note that the study was a careful, rigorous study with some missed opportunities for further analysis.

The original report found:

  1. Schools enrolling higher proportions of minority and low-income students were more likely to be closed;
  2. Test scores declined for students who transferred to schools with lower test-score performance and for students who transferred to schools with equivalent test-score performance; and
  3. Slightly less than half of students transferred to higher performing schools after a closure; those who did showed academic improvement relative to their matched peers.

Gaertner and Kirshner add that the report should have better highlighted the disproportionality of the school closures and the inadequate number of higher quality receiving schools. The reviewers were also concerned about the statistical modeling, which threatens the validity of subgroup analyses (specifically as it relates to charter school comparisons).

In their conclusion, the reviewers say that they would have liked to see the report acknowledge the moral dimensions of school closures: "Decisions about school closure and broader questions of reform raise normative political questions about participation and rights – including questions about the voices of students and their parents."

Find the review on the GLC website:

Find the CREDO report at:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/