Report questions Duncan’s policy of closing failing schools

Education Secretary Arne Duncan oversaw the closing of dozens of failing schools when he was CEO of the Chicago public schools, and in his new post, he has drawn on those experiences, putting school turnaround efforts at the center of his education reforms. But a study from University of Chicago researchers concludes that most students in schools that closed during the first five years of Duncan’s tenure in Chicago saw little benefit, reports the New York Times. "Most students who transferred out of closing schools re-enrolled in schools that were academically weak," says the report. Furthermore, the disruption of routines in schools scheduled to be closed appeared to hurt student learning in the months after the closing was announced, the researchers found. Partly because of the disruption caused by the closings, Duncan changed strategy after 2006. Instead of closing schools permanently, or for a year, and then reopening with a new staff, he shifted to the turnaround approach, in which the staff of failing schools were replaced over the summer but the same students returned in the fall. The report focused only on the elementary schools closed permanently from 2001 to 2006 and thus offers no conclusions about the effectiveness of the turnaround strategy. A spokesman for Duncan also said researchers found that students who ended up in higher-achieving schools showed more gains on standardized tests. Still, the report’s findings are likely to provoke new debate about Duncan’s efforts to encourage the use of Chicago’s turnaround strategy nationwide…

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