What happens to students when you close a school?

We wrote about that here.

We know it can be useful to know where those conclusions come from, too. So we’ve collected the studies we examined on the topic below. They’re listed in order of how many schools they look at, with the national study first.


National (26 states), 1,522 schools closed between 2006 and 2012 (Chalkbeat story)

  • What happened to students in schools that closed? “Charter closure students had weaker growth than [similar students] from low-performing charter schools that remained open… [Traditional public school] closure students also made less academic progress than did [comparison students] …. The relative negative growth of charter and TPS closure students suggests that closure of low-performing schools somewhat hampered academic progress for the average student.”
  • Did it matter if students ended up at better-performing schools? “Closure students who attended better schools tended to make greater academic gains than did their peers from not-closed low-performing schools in the same sector, while those ending up in worse or equivalent schools had weaker academic growth than their peers in comparable low- performing settings.”

Michigan, 246 elementary and middle schools closed between 2006 and 2009

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “For reading, students experience no significant change in test scores at the time of displacement. For mathematics, students in closed schools are falling behind their peers in the district prior to closure, and this dip prior to displacement is not the result of formal school closing announcements. Student achievement in mathematics remains low in the first year in their new school, but improves markedly thereafter. In the second year following displacement, student test scores in mathematics are substantially higher than they were in the year prior to being displaced.”
  • Were students at schools that absorb new students from closed schools affected? “School closings create modest negative spillover effects onto students in receiving schools, however, and these effects persist for multiple years.”
  • Did it matter if students ended up at better-performing schools? “In mathematics, students displaced from relatively low-performing schools experience gains in achievement compared to their prior performance at the closed school. In addition, the estimated effects on receiving schools vary with respect to the performance level of the closed schools. If students are displaced from relatively low-performing schools, the spillover effects are larger in magnitude.”

Ohio (8 cities), 198 elementary and middle schools closed between 2006 and 2012

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “The results indicate that the closure of a district-run school increased the reading and math achievement of displaced students by 0.073 and 0.065 standard deviations, respectively …by the third year after closure. The achievement effects differ somewhat for students displaced by charter-school closure. … The closure of charter schools increased math achievement by about 0.087 standard deviation…by the third year after closure. In reading achievement, however, our analysis indicates that the initial positive impact of closure becomes negligible by the third year after closure.”
  • Were students at schools that absorb new students from closed schools affected? “The quality of the schools that take in displaced students declines by 0.10 and 0.18 standard deviations—for district and charter schools, respectively—before and after absorbing students and staff from closing schools.”
  • Did it matter if students ended up at better-performing schools? “For both school types, the achievement gains associated with closure were, unsurprisingly, significantly greater if a displaced student subsequently attended a school of higher quality than her closed school.”

Chicago, 47 elementary schools closed in 2013

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “Students from closed schools experienced a long-term negative impact on their math test scores; slightly lower and short-term effects for reading test scores. Reading test scores rose back to expected levels the second year post-closings for students from closed schools, but their test scores did not improve at a higher pace than students in similar schools. However, the gap in math test scores remained for four years post-closings, the last year in our analyses… All students affected by school closures had no changes in absences or suspension rates…..Other learning measures, such as core GPA, were not affected immediately after closures, although we found some negative effects three and four years post-closures for students from closed schools.
  • Were students at schools that absorb new students from closed schools affected? “Students from [receiving] schools had lower than expected reading test scores the first year after the merger….This was a short-term effect, as reading test scores rebounded the next year.”

Milwaukee, 33 schools that include high school grades closed between 2006 and 2013

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “I find that, after closure, students’ GPA and attendance are negatively affected in the short term (1-2 years after closure) declining by approximately 10% and 4% respectively. Standardized test scores are not significantly affected, but this is due, at least partly, to lower statistical power for that part of the analysis. The negative effects on GPA and attendance fade over time, but do not quite reach their pre-closure levels three years after the closure, which, for many students is past the point they would be enrolled in high school. Importantly, students who experience a closure while in high school are less likely to graduate high school and less likely to attend college. These effects are large showing a 6% to 10% reduction in high school graduation and a 3% to 5% reduction in college attendance.”
  • Were students at schools that absorb new students from closed schools affected? “I find some evidence that test scores of students in recipient schools are negatively affected, but that GPA, attendance, and disciplinary incidents are not.”
  • Did it matter if students ended up at better-performing schools? “High school graduation variables suggest that students are less likely to graduate if they attend a worse quality school after closure than if they attend a better quality school. However, students who graduate are less likely to go to college if they attend a “better” school.”

Washington, D.C., 32 elementary and middle schools closed in 2008

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “The resulting estimates of the investigation show statistically significant, albeit temporary, declines in student achievement in the year of the closure announcement and in the first year following the closures. However, no detectable differences in student achievement are observed in the second year after closures. Student performance drops in affected students by 0.10 to 0.20 standard deviations in the very near term, but appears to rebound very quickly and is indistinguishable from students unaffected by the restructuring initiative. The results also show no evidence of student mobility increasing in relation to the large-scale restructuring effort.”

Louisiana (New Orleans and Baton Rouge), 31 school closures and external takeovers between 2008 and 2014

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “New Orleans elementary students’ math standardized test scores increased by 13 percentile points after the interventions, but the policies may have reduced the college entry rates of high school students. The results varied greatly between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. New Orleans high school students experienced positive effects, while Baton Rouge high school interventions reduced the high school graduation rate by 10 percentage points and reduced the college entry rate as well.”
  • Did it matter if students ended up at better-performing schools? “The effects for both elementary and high schools are much more positive for students experiencing more positive changes in school quality than for those experiencing reductions or smaller improvements in school quality. In elementary schools, for example, students’ test scores improved by 0.43 s.d. (16 percentile points) among students with high school quality improvement, but by only 0.27 s.d. (11 percentile points) for other students.”
  • How were “future” students affected by the closure of schools they otherwise would have attended? “Our best estimate is that the closure and takeover policies account for 25% to 40% of the total improvement of New Orleans’ schools through 2012.”

New York City, 29 high schools designated for closure between 2002 and 2008 (Chalkbeat story)

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “The phaseout process itself did not have a systematic impact, positive or negative, on the academic outcomes and attendance of students enrolled in these high schools at the time. The gains made by students in the phaseout schools were generally similar to gains made by students in other low-performing schools.”
  • How were “future” students affected by the closure of schools they otherwise would have attended? “Closures improved graduation rates for the [future] students by 15.1 percentage points … Closing a high school had a systematic impact on graduation rates, including the rate at which students received the more rigorous Regents diploma, and on several precursors to these longer-term outcomes, including attendance and credit accumulation in the 9th grade.”

Houston, 27 school closures between 2003 and 2010

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “Closures were not associated with higher achievement than would have been expected in the absence of closures, save for small, short-term gains in math.”
  • Did it matter if students ended up at better-performing schools? “We find that closures have the potential to benefit the achievement of displaced students if they transfer to high-performing campuses. Unfortunately, our analyses of student transfer patterns suggest that few students, particularly low-performing students and students of color, transfer to such high-performing campuses.”

Anonymous city school district, 22 elementary and middle schools closed in 2006

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “We find that students displaced from closed schools can experience negative effects on achievement and attendance, but the effect on achievement can be offset when students move to schools with higher performance. Moreover, the initial effect on absenteeism disappears after the first year following school closure.
  • Were students at schools that absorb new students from closed schools affected? “The analysis also shows no adverse effects (as measured by test scores or absenteeism) on students in the schools receiving the transfer students.”
  • Did it matter if students ended up at better-performing schools? “Students relocated to schools of substantially higher quality experienced no significant drop in achievement. On the other hand, students relocated to schools of similar quality experienced a large, initially significant and apparently persistent drop in achievement.”

Philadelphia, 20 elementary and middle schools closed in 2012 and 2013

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? the average academic achievement of displaced students … School closures significantly increased the days of school missed due to absences, and the effect of closures on absences was greater for displaced students attending schools with a higher concentration of displaced students. School absences and out-of-school suspension days increased as the distance displaced students traveled to their new schools increased.
  • Were students at schools that absorb new students from closed schools affected? “Students attending schools that received displaced students experienced a significant decline in academic achievement; these negative spillover effects persisted for two years after receiving displaced students, and the decline in achievement was greatest for students attending schools with the highest concentration of displaced students. … School absences and out-of-school suspension days were greatest among students attending receiving-schools with the highest concentration of displaced students.”
  • Did it matter if students ended up at better-performing schools? “ELA achievement was significantly greater for displaced students whose receiving schools have higher pre-closure ELA performance. Specifically, displaced student ELA achievement increased by 0.06 standard deviations by the end of the first post-closure year if they enrolled in a receiving school with pre-closure mean ELA proficiency 20 percentage points higher than the mean pre-closure proficiency of their closed school.”

Chicago, 18 elementary and middle schools closed between 2001 and 2006

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “One year after students left their closed schools, their achievement in reading and math was not significantly different from what we would have expected had their schools not been closed. During this time, students overcame the negative impact suffered during the announcement year and returned to their expected learning trajectory. Achievement remained at this expected level two and three years after their schools were closed.”
  • Did it matter if students ended up at better-performing schools? “Displaced students who enrolled in top performing CPS schools had higher test scores one year later than displaced students who enrolled in low performing schools or in schools that were similar to the schools they left. … However, only 6 percent of students enrolled in top performing CPS schools after they were displaced.”

Ohio (charters), 18 elementary and middle charter schools closed between 2008 and 2012

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “The results indicate that requiring poor-performing schools to close has a positive effect on the achievement of their students. Three years after schools are identified for closure—and two years after schools are required to shut down—students from closing schools post reading and math scores that are typically between 0.2 and 0.3 standard deviations higher than those of students whose schools just avoid mandatory closure. The analysis also indicates that these gains are associated with displaced students ending up in higher-quality schools as measured by school value-added in math and reading.”

Newark, 14 elementary and middle schools closed between 2012 and 2014 (Chalkbeat story)

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “Post-closure, we find that students from closed schools had a statistically significant increase in value-added in the year following closure in math and ELA. Specifically, these students grew 0.14 SD in math and 0.11 SD in ELA more in the first years after closure than they did pre-closure, controlling for statewide changes in growth over this period … Overall, students in Newark’s closed schools appeared to benefit academically from closure, in both math and ELA. This growth was sustained for three years after closure on average.”

New York City, six high schools designated for closure in 2007 and 2009

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “There was either no impact (for the 2006-2007 cohort analysis) or a negative impact (for the 2008-2009 cohort analysis) on a student’s probability of graduating on time. For both cohorts, however, there was a significant negative impact on the type of the diploma obtained by students. Those in the treatment groups tended to earn a local diploma more often and a Regents diploma less often. In both cohorts of closed schools, the impacts on tenth graders were statistically significant. In the earlier cohort, the impacts on ninth graders were also significant. The impacts on eleventh graders were more muted, as expected since they were already close to their expected graduation date at the time of the announcements”

North Carolina (three districts), five middle schools closed in 2012

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “Our results indicate that closure has a negative effect on performance on [end-of-grade] reading assessments for displaced students. … There were no further significant changes in student performance in the closure year, even for students who attended a higher achieving school.”

Anonymous large city district in western U.S., a single high school closed in 2006

  • What happened to students from schools that closed? “Across the three content areas, comparison students typically gained about 10 points each year. In contrast, the Transition Cohort scores declined across the three content areas after the closure announcement. … Minority [low-income students with average achievement had a 7% chance of dropping out preclosure. Those students had a 15% chance of dropping out postclosure. … Whereas minority [low-income] students with average achievement had a 71% chance of graduating in the preclosure years, they had a 49% chance of graduating postclosure.”