Public schools

Shutter Bad Schools (Public or Private), Get Better Education. How Is This Even Controversial?

Shifting students to better schools gets better outcomes. Imagine that.

|

Closed school
Chamey / Dreamstime.com

Parents often resist when public schools close their doors, even when said schools are underperforming and/or underpopulated. In my former hometown of Barstow, out in the California desert, in the face of declining enrollment, citizens nevertheless resisted school districts' efforts to close a couple of schools and even used California's absurdly complicated environmental laws to try to block it (essentially arguing that the district hadn't adequately studied the environmental impact of moving students to other schools).

But when privately operated charter schools perform poorly, school districts are often very quick to try to shut them down. Paperwork issues? Shut them down! Don't like how they're spending the money? Shut them down!

Research highlighted by NPR suggests that the willingness to shut down bad or unneeded schools is good, public or private, and doing so is often a boon to students.

This should not be a controversial issue, but it is. NPR notes that a full 84 percent of parents in a recent poll said they'd prefer to keep a poorly performing school open and try to fix it, rather than shut it down. It's pretty easy to understand the logic of parents here. Changing schools is a stressful, difficult experience for families, and there's a high level of resistance unless circumstances truly call for it. As NPR notes, it's tougher for parents to be involved with schools the further they are from the family's home.

But perhaps the stress of being in a bad school is much worse. Some early research is showing that when underperforming and underenrolled schools are shut down, the closings benefited the students who were sent elsewhere. Contain your surprise:

James Kemple at NYU's Steinhardt School took a look at New York City's shuttering of 29 high schools that were among the lowest-performing in the city. The phaseout took place over several years, allowing students to finish out their educations at the school where they began. At the same time, New York opened a group of small high schools offering open enrollment and personalized attention for students, and it instituted a citywide choice policy.

Kemple followed a matched group of eighth-graders who, based on their middle schools and their neighborhoods, would have been expected to attend one of the closed schools. He studied where they went and what happened to them. The impacts were "quite strong," he says, in a positive direction.

"They ended up attending high schools that were higher-performing, with higher attendance, better test scores, better graduation rates, and did much better than students we compared them to," he says. That included a 15-percentage-point increase in the students' high school graduation rate.

Note that the story's a lot more complicated than just taking students from one school and shipping them off to another. It involves New York City treating school choice seriously and giving families much more power over where their students would attend.

There a bit of an "It's too soon to be entirely certain" tone to the story. Students from closed schools in Chicago, NPR explains, have been shifted to schools with better ratings from the city, but it's too soon to evaluate the outcomes. That—in the year 2016?we don't have adequate research on the educational impacts of closing bad public schools says so much about how entrenched the public education system is.

And yet, the power within the system has ultimately led us to a situation where the only way to actually "fix" public schools is to either threaten them with closure or allow parents to ship their kids elsewhere. The powerful education unions have made it next to impossible to fire bad teachers. They do everything within their power to even fight methods used to evaluate teacher performance or to tie pay or bonuses to educational outcomes. At this point, eliminating entire schools is one of just a handful of ways of bypassing that level of power.

This study's results are not remotely shocking or controversial. The only thing shocking is that it has taken so long for it to happen, even though we know full well that increasing money spent on education has not resulted in any increases in school performance. We've known all along that accountability and competition is what's missing. Now we're finally getting the research that backs it up.

Much more from Reason on school choice here.

NEXT: August and Year-to-Date Are Second Hottest in Satellite Record: Global Temperature Trend Update

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I actually used to own a renovated schoolhouse. Originally a one-room schoolhouse that was converted when school districts consolidated.

    I still miss that house. It was a cool place to live. Even had a bell in the little bell tower.

    1. Even had a bell in the little bell tower.

      Did you ring it to announce to the neighborhood your conjugal exploits?

      1. No, silly, you hire a hunchback for that.

        1. Of course, the bell was missing the clapper, so RC hired the hunchback to use his head instead.

          So one day, I saw the hunchback at the supermarket.

          Someone asked me, “who’s that?”

          I answered, “I don’t know, but his face rings a bell.”

          1. Hahaha! That’s pretty good.

            1. I wish I could claim originality.

            2. No it isn’t, it’s terrible. And old. That’s the kind of joke my father tells.

              1. How about the one with the hard-of-hearing genie? Did your father tell *that* one?

                1. By the way, I’ve matured enough not to give an even more tasteless and insulting response to your remark.

                2. Yes, as a matter of fact he did tell me the joke about the 12 inch pianist.

                  1. Did he tell the one about the famous cellist, Yo Ma Ma?

                3. 10″ pianist?

      2. Conjugal exploits?

        I’m married.

        Naw, we mostly rang it during drunken blowouts. I tried not to do that late at night. It was the original bell, and it was frickin’ loud.

    2. Seriously, it breaks my heart to see an old school house like the one in the post rotting away. A building like that is undoubtedly built like a bank vault.

      Its incredible the amount of money that probably a dozen farm families invested in my old one-room school house. It was an incredible structure – built out of dressed stone (can’t remember the type – a kind of soft limestone, I believe). The interior structural supports were 12 x 12 oak beams, some of them thirty feet long. WIndows that were five feet by three feet.

      Dang, I miss that house.

        1. It was built during the Victorian era.

      1. What really seems to be lost in the debate over schools is that there are two VERY different issues here that aren’t being addressed by any side in the debate. The capital/infrastructure spending is not the same as the spending on teachers/curriculum/etc within the classroom. The two have very different beneficiaries, different accountability, different ‘best’ financing, etc. But because everyone chooses to be blind and wants to use coercion to control both, all arguments about education are just pure ideological crap.

        We will get finally somewhere when some school district separates the two and can then figure out how to use property taxes to finance the capital/infrastructure and ‘rent classroom space’ (financed differently) to education competition. So in theory a class on creationism can take place right next to a class on evolution – and a class on civic patriotism can take place in the same room and immediately before a cultural Marxist civics class – and a computer lab can be used for classwork useful for both ‘get a job right after HS’ and ‘college prep’ students.

        That is exactly what the old one-room schoolhouses tried to achieve without the benefit of any economies of scale/specialization. And what most schools now fail to do now that those are possible.

    3. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do… http://www.14earnpath.com

  2. LOL graduation rate. The fakest of the fake metrics.

    1. It’s not like they can manipulate the….

      oh.

  3. It’s not controversial. The left logrolls for the teachers unions. John Oliver may make a five minute monologue papering over that fact, but like all progressive shills, he’s a liar. Maybe to himself, certainly to us. This is all about teachers unions.

  4. This should not be a controversial issue, but it is. NPR notes that a full 84 percent of parents in a recent poll said they’d prefer to keep a poorly performing school open and try to fix it, rather than shut it down.

    HANDS OFF’N MUH FREE DAY CARE!

  5. it’s tougher for parents to be involved with schools the further they are from the family’s home.

    3rd-4th grades, I lived in rural PA. My school bus carried all ages, and took another 45mins to get to school after they finally picked me up. Pretty far from home.

    3rd grade is also when my fledgling penchant for disruptive behavior was nipped in the bud. Acted up 1st time, mom got called in, everyone came to the conclusion I was not being challenged, so they tossed me in the gifted program and by the end of 4th grade I was competent in algebra and Apple BASIC.

    I can’t say I’m convinced that the distance to school is a relevant factor in success.

      1. Six feet of snow!

    1. 45 minutes? Pffft. Colorado mountains -> 1 hour bus ride. I got a significant amount of my daily sleep requirements riding to and from school.

  6. More research from the Institute of “well, Duh!”

  7. I attended a school that was shutdown the following year. It needed to be.

      1. Ahem, that’s Hollywood Upstairs Medical College.

        1. Just got the new Apple TV with the FX Now app. Every single episode ever. And I’ve convinced my kids that they like it too.

          1. So there’s no excuse for you fucking up the quotes ; P

            1. “Please sir! You’ll give yourself skin failure!”

            2. Once I’m done re-watching, sure. I don’t cheat and look them up, and I haven’t seen some of those episodes since college. Especially season 12.

              Oh, look! She’s presenting!

    1. I’m sure the fire that year was just a coincidence.

      (note to bacon-magic’s lawyer: that was a joke)

  8. OT: What did the blind, deaf, mute girl get for Christmas?

    1. Wait, I know this, I saw *Titus Andronicus*…she got a meat pie!

      1. Wrong. Cancer, the answer is “she got cancer”.

        1. That’s amazing…your joke was actually more offensive than mine!

          I take my hat off to you.

        2. Archer: That is the third saddest thing I’ve heard today.

          Lana: *looks inquiringly*

          Archer: Pam told me about a little girl who drowned trying to save a puppy.

          Lana: Jesus! What was the second?

          Archer: The puppy… drowned too.

        3. This is why there are no deaf, blind, mute female libertarians.

  9. RE: Shutter Bad Schools (Public or Private), Get Better Education. How Is This Even Controversial?

    The little people should never have to worry about educating their children. That is what The State is for. The State will deliver sufficient training for the unwashed masses. These urchins only need to know how to wash the cars of the ruling elite, scrub their floors, iron their clothes, etc. The only thing intellectual these children is the proper and constant political indoctrination so they remain loyal to our beloved ruling elites. Making the urchins of the lower classes will only confuse and frustrate them because they are intrinsically mental inferiors as are their parents. Indeed, educating the kids of the lowly plebian classes only incites envy, jealousy and anger. How many times has history shown the little people are better off being near-illiterate for their own sake and happiness? Did Stalin allow anyone his model of socialism to read about capitalism? Did Mao allow his oppressed to read about political freedom? Does Castro tolerate discussion about financial security and freedom? Of course not. This is why the little people in these countries were always happy, content and safe from The State. So let us all forget about educating the little people’s children and be grateful instead that our obvious betters’ children are forced to get a good education at our expense.

    1. The State will deliver sufficient training for the unwashed masses

      And, failing that, lifelong welfare benefits.

    1. So, Donald Trump is an actual cuck?

      1. Donald Trump is winner and a negotiator, which means he leaves everyone unsatisfied.

      2. He may be planning on using the debate to go after the liberal DemOp media, using Lauer as a foil.

        1. That would be interesting.

        2. Opening statement:

          This is a great night, great night for a debate. Look at all these lovely, lovely, lovely people here. It’s a wonderful thing, this debate. And our moderator, he’s a great guy, great guy, Matt Lauer. Great journalist, Matt. Very experienced guy, many years hosting the today show. Some people, and I disagree with them, some people have said, how can this guy moderate when Hillary Clinton, when he’s given money to the Clinton foundation (gasps from the audience) I know, I know listen to me folks, Matt is a professional and I trust, I know Matt is going to be fair tonight, I trust him. He gave money, he’s a generous guy, and I love that, love that about America, we’re generous people, and we’re going to have good debate tonight, and we’re gonna let Matt do his job, the moderator, I’m sure a good job as our moderator tonight.

    2. So, let me get this straight. A Clinton Foundation donor will moderate a debate between Hillary Clinton and… another Clinton Foundation donor. Sounds legit.

  10. The powerful education unions have made it next to impossible to fire bad teachers. They do everything within their power to even fight methods used to evaluate teacher performance or to tie pay or bonuses to educational outcomes.

    Here’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while. It’s obviously flawed and incomplete, but represents an approach based at least in part on rational incentives.

    Let students/parents select teachers. Teacher pay is based on a per-enrolled-student rate.

    No students picked you? No paycheck.
    “Too many” students? You get to select and hire assistants, but pay them out of your gross receipts based on enrollment in your class.
    Should teachers be allowed to cap their class size and/or “cherry pick”? Sure Why the fuck not?

    1. End mandatory education. Make parents pay for their own kids education. That’s all I got so far.

      1. Good luck selling that. Even with a massive swing toward libertarianism, the closest you’re likely to get is making payments for education (including for other people) tax deductible.

  11. “my former hometown of Barstow”

    Barstow – Gateway to Daggett

    1. Barstow – It’s not Wendover.

      1. “Bastow – yeah, like *your* town is so great!”

  12. giving families much more power over where their students would attend

    We have that in LA.

    Combine that with wealthy areas having good schools (naturally) and LAUSD trying to make up for that by putting magnet and charter in poor neighborhoods, everyone in the middle class is doing everything they can to get out of their local school and into a school in a wealthy or poor neighborhood.

  13. The problem goes deeper than teacher’s unions (though those are also certainly a problem).

    Those unions have practically no power in Texas, but we ain’t settin’ the world on fire with our publik educational system, neither.

    1. No, but given that public schooling is (sadly) a national interest, Texas schools are a free-rider on the efforts of efforts in Californian and Illinois, etc. You’re right, it is a multifactorial problem, it just happens that opposition for the sorts of programs most likely to bring about improvements come strongest from unions and the progressive coalition.

      1. I get that, and that’s why I oppose teacher’s unions. They are certainly a huge part of the issue.

        But I honestly believe that the biggest problem is the bizarre belief amongst the public that everyone is entitled to a “free” primary education.

        People must be lead to the position of liberty. I myself am not good at this, because when people ask me about poor people being able to afford an education, I generally reply that I don’t give a damn and the ignorant pieces of shit can die face down in a ditch for all I care because education isn’t a right.

        So, you know, somebody else should probably be the spokesperson for this.

        1. Oh, no doubt. I just wonder whether in another universe where (maybe by dint of state constitutions) public unions were illegal, whether lefties would be more open to charter schools. They’re still public and they’re still free, and yet they’re anathema to the left because the left loves them some union votes.

          Charter schools are not especially libertarian, and you’re right, the public isn’t very liberty-oriented.

          1. Charters are probably the best we can realistically hope for.

            Best-case scenario, they act as the proverbial “camel’s nose”.

        2. Actually, most state constitutions say that people ARE entitled to a free, appropriate education. The Ohio constitution says just that. Feel free to look up the statutes for all of the states at http://www.ecs.org/ec-content/…..tion-1.pdf

          If you are speaking about Federal involvement in education, then I agree with you.

    2. Last I looked, Texas had the second best race-adjusted NAEP scores.

      1. This.

        Texas actually does pretty well, considering that most the kids were born to 15 year old illegal immigrants.

  14. Even more OT: It’s Christmas morning and two brothers jump out of bed and run downstairs to the tree. The older brother is tearing through a huge pile of gifts full of all kinds of expensive toys. When he finally opens his last gift, he looks over and sees his younger brother pushing around a Matchbox car in the corner.

    “Boy I sure got way more gifts than you, didn’t I” says the older brother.

    “Yeah, but at least I don’t have cancer” says the younger.

    1. Comedy gold!

  15. You know what’s better than getting a gold medal in the Special Olympics?

    Not being retarded.

  16. End mandatory education.

    I would accept “none” in the teacher selection process. Let the little fuckers stay home and hoe the garden. Send them down into the mines.

  17. So, a priest, a minister, a rabbi, a Quaker, a Buddhist monk, a Jain, and an imam walk into a bar.

    The bartender says, “what is this, some sort of joke?”

    1. Bonus points for guessing what each of them orders.

      1. They… each order you to stop making lame-ass jokes?

        1. haha, ass-jokes!

      2. The joke is, the all drink Scotch. Religion be damned.

      3. “Death and eternal damnation for non-believers”?

    2. See Eddie, you just couldn’t help yourself. You had some early success, and you got all excited and started bombarding with jokes. And you kind of ruined the fun. We were laughing with you; but now we’re laughing at you.

      It’s ok though, I still like you.

      1. So I’m kind of like Leslie Nielsen?

        1. Good comparison. 🙂

  18. A man is sitting in a hospital waiting room while his wife is giving birth to their first child. After a short time, the doctor comes out to get the man. “The most amazing thing just happened,” the doctor says. “Come on, you have to see this!”
    The two go into the delivery room where the doctor picks up the baby. “Your baby can fly! Watch this!”
    The doctor holds the baby over his head then let’s go. The father looks on in horror as the baby falls and splats on the floor.
    “You sick bastard, what are you doing” the father yells.
    “No, I swear he can fly! Watch!”
    The doctor picks up the baby then throws it at the wall. The baby bounces off the wall and again splats on the floor.
    “Oh my God” shouts the father. “Stop!”
    “Trust me, it’s truly amazing” says the doctor as he picks up the baby once more and throws it out the window. The baby falls nine floors and goes through the roof of a bus.
    “I’m gonna kill you, you piece of shit,” the father screams.

    “Relax,” the doctor says, “it came out dead.”

  19. How is this even controversial?

    Because a “bad school” is most often a euphemism for a school with too many bad students – and that invites all kinds of complications that nobody wants to talk about.

    1. I’ve never heard someone say “bad/good school” non-euphemistically in real life. And maybe 50% of people online seem to get it. How is this spread possible?

  20. Because a “bad school” is most often a euphemism for a school with too many bad students – and that invites all kinds of complications that nobody wants to talk about.

    We could substantially reduce the level of complexity if we stopped pretending those students should or could go to college.

    1. Of course they should all go to college – just add a “mineral extraction” major and the graduates can go to work in my mines.

  21. Research highlighted by NPR suggests that the willingness to shut down bad or unneeded schools is good, public or private, and doing so is often a boon to students.

    Um a good thing for the govt to “shut down” a private school because it’s bad or unneeded?

  22. Thomas . you think Deborah `s c0mment is flabbergasting… last week I got a top of the range Mitsubishi Evo after having earned $5117 this-past/five weeks and just a little over $10k last month . without a question it is the most-comfortable job I’ve ever had . I started this 6 months ago and straight away startad earning more than $84… per-hour . Read Full Article
    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.factoryofincome.com

  23. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8012 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here…

    —————->> http://www.ReportMax90.Com

  24. Sophia . although Nancy `s stori is impressive, on sunday I got a top of the range Peugeot 205 GTi from earning $9438 this-past/four weeks an would you believe ten-k last-munth . it’s actualy the most financially rewarding I’ve ever done . I actually started nine months/ago and pretty much straight away began to make over $78 per-hour . have a peek at this website
    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.factoryofincome.com

  25. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
    >>>>>> http://www.Sky.Jobss1.com

  26. just as Luis replied I cannot believe that any body can get paid $6967 in a few weeks on the internet . you could check here

    ?????? http://www.businessbay4.com/

  27. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.Sky.Jobss1.com

  28. I’m making over $9k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do…. Go to tech tab for work detail..
    ?????? http://www.earnmax6.com/

  29. Research highlighted by NPR suggests that the willingness to shut down bad or unneeded schools is good, public or private, and doing so is often a boon to students.

    http://goo.gl/xaF6O1

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.