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ERIC Number: ED506954
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Oct
Pages: 48
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 16
ISBN: ISBN-978-0-9814604-8-2
When Schools Close: Effects on Displaced Students in Chicago Public Schools
de la Torre, Marisa; Gwynne, Julia
Consortium on Chicago School Research
Few decisions by a school district are more controversial than the decision to close a school. School staff, students and their families, and even the local community all bear a substantial burden once the decision is made to close a school. Teachers and other school staff must search for new employment, students are faced with a multitude of adjustments that come from enrolling in new schools, and neighborhoods lose a central institution in their community. While recognizing these challenges, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has insisted on the need to close schools for two reasons. First, CPS has stressed the educational necessity of closing schools that demonstrate chronically low levels of academic performance. They argue that, despite the difficulties associated with changing schools, students in failing schools would be better served by transferring into schools that are academically more successful. Second, CPS has also emphasized the financial necessity of closing schools with student enrollments far below their intended capacity. Since 2001, CPS has closed 44 schools for reasons of poor academic performance or underutilization. In 2006, CPS modified its school closing policy to focus on "turning around" academically weak schools instead of closing them. In a turnaround school, students are allowed to remain in the same building while all or most of the staff is replaced. As of 2009, there are 12 turnaround schools in Chicago. Despite the attention that school closings have received in the past few years, very little is known about how displaced students fare after their schools are closed. This report examines the impact that closing schools had on the students who attended these schools. The authors focus on regular elementary schools that were closed between 2001 and 2006 for underutilization or low performance and ask whether students who were forced to leave these schools and enroll elsewhere experienced any positive or negative effects from this type of school move. They also examine characteristics of the receiving schools and ask whether differences in these schools had any impact on the learning experiences of the students who transferred into them. In order to assess the effects that school closings had on students, they compare students ages eight and older who were displaced by school closings to a group of students in similar schools that did not close. This comparison group of students allows them to estimate how the displaced students would have performed on a range of outcomes had their schools not been closed. They report six major findings: (1) Most students who transferred out of closing schools reenrolled in schools that were academically weak; (2) The largest negative impact of school closings on students' reading and math achievement occurred in the year before the schools were closed; (3) Once students left schools slated for closing, on average the additional effects on their learning were neither negative nor positive; (4) Although the school closing policy had only a small overall effect on student test scores, it did affect summer school enrollment and subsequent school mobility; (5) When displaced students reached high school, their on-track rates to graduate were no different than the rates of students who attended schools similar to those that closed; and (6) The learning outcomes of displaced students depended on the characteristics of receiving schools. Two appendices are included: (1) School Closings and New Openings; and (2) Data, Analytic Methods, and Variables Used. (Contains 5 tables, 10 figures and 53 endnotes.)
Consortium on Chicago School Research. 1313 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637. Tel: 773-702-3364; Fax: 773-702-2010; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Authoring Institution: Consortium on Chicago School Research
Identifiers - Location: Illinois
IES Cited: ED559916; ED559928