Giving Compass' Take:

· Marcus A. Winters at the Manhattan Institute touches on the impact school closures have on current students and what needs to be done to ensure a smooth transition for students.

· How can schools make transitioning from one institution to another easier for students? How can schools support transitioning and displaced students? When do school closured benefit students? 

· Here's more on what we've learned about school closures

It may seem obvious that students enrolled in a low-performing school would benefit from moving to another school. In reality, this is not necessarily the case. A substantial and growing body of empirical research has found very mixed effects for the impact of closing a school on its current students. Researchers have found that students displaced by school closures benefited in Michigan, Ohio (two studies), and Louisiana; experienced declining achievement in Chicago, Milwaukee, North Carolina, and an anonymous urban district; and experienced no distinguishing effectin Washington, D.C., Houston, Philadelphia, New York City, and Chicago (in a separate study). In the broadest study to date, researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) used data from 26 states to evaluate the effect of school closures nationally and, consistent with previous research, found widely varying effects.

The most likely explanation for the variation found in the research is that students displaced by a school closure experience a combination of two factors. The effect of a school closure on students reflects two different, sometimes countervailing, factors: the difference between the quality of the new school they attend and the quality of the school closed; and the effect of moving to a new school environment.

Empirical research—as well as common sense—suggests that students make more educational gains in some schools than in others. That at least one school is far less effective than others in a system is the fundamental principle underlying the need to close a school. But that is not the whole story. For current students, the positive effect of attending a higher-quality school is counterbalanced by the disruption caused by the transition itself. Many students find it difficult to adapt to new environments—new teachers, administrators, buildings, social groups, etc.—even when the environment is objectively better than what they left. Transitions between schools can interfere with a student’s learning, at least in the short term. Recent research suggests that nonstructural mobility—when students change schools other than after completing the highest grade taught in their school—has an immediate negative impact on the outcomes of mobile students.

Read the full article about school closures by Marcus A. Winters at the Manhattan Institute.