I just reread this NYU study that explores the impact of former NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg’s highly contentious decision to close some the city’s largest, failing high schools. While most of the findings confirm findings of other studies, one discovery that fascinates me is the positive impact a school closing has on its no-longer-potential student body. The study is sure to acknowledge that, of course, if a student no longer has the option to attend a failing school, whatever school they end up at would be inherently better (as the city removed the worst schools, one should only go up from there, generally speaking,). But this does not also take into consideration the uproar that the Bloomberg/Klein administration faced during the school closure process. More specifically, anti-school closure advocates were concerned about student disruption and integral fixture in the community.
Though the study answered the disruption issue (impacted students are “exponentially insignificantly impacted by the disruption), it also showed that there is a long term positive effect of closing persistently failing schools. Middle school students seem to be thinking and attending better schools than the recently closed down school in their community. Those middle schoolers are more likely to graduate from high school now that the poor school is no longer an option. My guess is that the local school closing serves as a clear point of reference for younger students. My other guess is that the closings of low-performing schools put parents on high alert on how well schools are doing, rather than unquestionably going to the local school. This is just an assumption, but by doing something as touchy as closing the most severely under performing high schools in communities, enough noise was made to make students and parents pay additional attention to school selection.