Study: Closing Low-Performing Schools Improves Educational Outcomes

Closing down poorly performing schools — including charter schools — improves academic performance, a new study suggests.

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Closing down poorly performing schools — including charter schools — improves academic performance, a new study suggests. 

Research released April 28 by think tank and charter school sponsor the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that students who changed schools because their school closed due to performance issues got an academic boost. The institute, with the help of researchers from the Ohio State University and the University of Oklahoma, looked at 198 school closures across the state of Ohio from 2006 to 2012. Students at those schools performed far better statistically when they moved on to other schools after their poorly performing charter and public schools shut down. 

“The results of this study shatter popular myth that closing schools hurts kids academically,” said Fordham’s Ohio Research Director Aaron Churchill in a statement. “Students usually make a soft landing. After closure, children typically end up in higher-quality schools, and they make strong academic progress.”

One of the big arguments against shuttering poorly performing schools in Ohio, including controversial charter schools, is that doing so disrupts students’ education and cuts into their academic performance. Charters in Ohio are especially hard to shutter, thanks to the state’s low accountability standards for the schools.

Despite those lax regulations, the state has closed 157 charter school for lack of academic achievement since 2000. But other chronically underperforming schools have proven very hard to shut down.

In 2013, Over-the-Rhine’s VLT Academy lost its sponsor, Educational Resource Consultants of Ohio, over its academic struggles. In Ohio, charter schools must have a sponsoring organization in order to operate. 

The school had just a 59 percent graduation rate and a 55 percent performance index, according to Ohio Department of Education data. That’s lower than other area schools, including nearby Rothenberg Academy, an elementary school run by CPS in OTR with a 66 percent performance index. Despite this, it took more than a year to close VLT. 

Many other low-performing charters in the city and around the state are still operating, leading to calls for increased accountability from lawmakers and educators.

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