A battle rages over how best to serve students in failing schools with plunging enrollment. Some argue the solution is to shutter the facility and relocate students to other schools.
Opponents of that solution accuse decision-makers of neglecting schools located in low-income communities of color. Instead of closing schools and shipping off students, these activists want equitable distribution of resources as a major part of preventing schools from failing in the first place.
A new report from Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research gives ammunition to school-closure opponents. It says school closures disproportionately affect Black and poor students, sending most of them to other low-performing schools.
Kori Stroub, a co-author, told the Urban Edge the study found academic improvements when the students transfer to top schools. All too often, however, administrators transfer these students to schools that are not much better than the ones they close.
More than half (52 percent) of them were placed in schools ranked in the bottom third of the district for math scores, while 43 percent found themselves at new schools ranked in the bottom third for reading.
“I think the troubling thing is that, it’s kind of a mixed bag. Closures have the potential to academically benefit certain students, but they can also have lasting negative consequences,” Stroub added.
There’s also a racial component: “White students were significantly more likely to transfer to high-performing schools than Black or Hispanic students.”
Moreover, the researchers tracked test scores, four years after transfers, and found little academic difference between the students who were relocated and students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds who remained in the district.
Stroub and co-author Meredith Richards analyzed 27 school closures in the Houston Independent School District from 2003 to 2010, which displaced about 4,100 students.