When Is It Time to Pull the Plug on a Failing School?
These days, a lot of people have first-hand knowledge of what it is like to have a “failing school” in their community. Whether the school has shut down extracurricular activities and programs, failed to meet the strict academic standards of No Child Left Behind or lost large numbers of students to competing charter schools, there are a lot of public schools that have seen better days. When a school fails to perform, tough questions start to get asked about the administrators, faculty and even whether the school should remain open at all.
Care2′s Judy Molland wrote about the struggling Philadelphia School District in April, and unfortunately, the district is still in bad shape and planning to close many schools. Over the past few years, the Philadelphia School District has seen many of its students transfer to charter schools, in hopes of a better education in an area where “80 percent of its 11th grade students read below grade level.” Because many schools in the district are operating below capacity, the district may close 37 campuses by June 2013, which is about one in six of public schools. “If the sweeping plan is approved, the district says it will improve academic standards by diverting money used for maintaining crumbling buildings to hire teachers and improve classroom equipment” (New York Times).
Administrators, parents and students of the schools that may be closed are understandably shocked. The closing of a school can be devastating for a community and for individual students who may be split up from teachers they admire and friends they have grown up with. But, for the cash-strapped Philadelphia district, redistributing students among more functional schools may be the best option.
When is it time to shut down a public school?
Closing a school is an enormous decision that affects a large number of people. Here are a few indicators that it is time for a school to be closed.
1. Student academic performance is at an unacceptable level, and does not show signs of improvement over a period of several years.
2. The school is operating significantly below capacity, with students being drawn away to more competitive schools in the area.
3. The physical school building requires extensive renovation or expensive maintenance and may be a hazard to students and faculty in the building.
In the case of the Philadelphia School District, it seems that many of these factors are at play in the district’s decision. Some of the schools have shown signs of academic progress in the last few years, but, in the eyes of the district, it is not enough to keep the schools open past the end of the present school year.
Has it happened to you?
Do you live in a community where a public school was closed? How did it affect the families of children who attended the school, and the community at large? Tell us about the outcome — was the school’s closing a positive event in the end? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Photo: David Schott via flickr