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Closing schools in a shrinking district: Do student outcomes depend on which schools are closed?

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  • Engberg, John
  • Gill, Brian
  • Zamarro, Gema
  • Zimmer, Ron

Abstract

In the last decade, many cities around the country have needed to close schools due to declining enrollments and low achievement. School closings raise concerns about the possible negative impacts on student achievement, neighborhoods, families, and teaching staff. This study examines an anonymous urban district that, faced with declining enrollment, chose to make student achievement a major criterion in determining which schools would be closed. The district targeted low-performing schools in its closure plan, and sought to move their students to higher-performing schools. We estimate the impact of school closures on student test scores and attendance rates by comparing the growth of these measures among students differentially affected by the closures. We use residential assignment to school as an instrument to address non-random sorting of students into new schools. We also statistically control for the contemporaneous effects of other reforms within the district. Results show that students displaced by school closures can experience adverse effects on test scores and attendance, but these effects can be minimized when students move to schools that are higher-performing (in value-added terms). Moreover, the negative effect on attendance disappears after the first year in the new school. Meanwhile, we find no adverse effects on students in the schools that are receiving the transferring students.

Suggested Citation

  • Engberg, John & Gill, Brian & Zamarro, Gema & Zimmer, Ron, 2012. "Closing schools in a shrinking district: Do student outcomes depend on which schools are closed?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 189-203.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:71:y:2012:i:2:p:189-203
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2011.10.001
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    Cited by:

    1. De Witte, K. & Van Klaveren, C., 2012. "The effect of primary school closures on educational attainments of students," Working Papers 42, Top Institute for Evidence Based Education Research.
    2. Beuchert, Louise & Humlum, Maria Knoth & Nielsen, Helena Skyt & Smith, Nina, 2018. "The short-term effects of school consolidation on student achievement: Evidence of disruption?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 31-47.
    3. Mark Chin & Thomas J. Kane & Whitney Kozakowski & Beth E. Schueler & Douglas O. Staiger, 2019. "School District Reform in Newark: Within- and Between-School Changes in Achievement Growth," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 72(2), pages 323-354, March.
    4. Conlin, Michael & Thompson, Paul N., 2017. "Impacts of new school facility construction: An analysis of a state-financed capital subsidy program in Ohio," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 13-28.
    5. Nicolas Grau & Daniel Hojman & Alejandra Mizala, 2015. "Destructive Creation: School Turnover and Educational Attainment," Documentos de Trabajo 312, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
    6. Witte, K. de & Ong, C., 2014. "School choice, segregation, and forced school closure," MERIT Working Papers 2014-008, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    7. Ahn, Kunwon & Lee, Jun Yeong & Winters, John V., 2020. "Employment Opportunities and High School Completion during the COVID-19 Recession," IZA Discussion Papers 13802, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Michael Dinerstein & Troy Smith, 2015. "Quantifying the Supply Response of Private Schools to Public Policies," Discussion Papers 15-019, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    9. Carlson, Deven & Lavertu, Stéphane, 2016. "Charter school closure and student achievement: Evidence from Ohio," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 31-48.
    10. Taghizadeh, Jonas Larsson, 2020. "Effects of school closures on displaced students and future cohorts," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(C).
    11. Thompson, Paul N., 2016. "School district and housing price responses to fiscal stress labels: Evidence from Ohio," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 54-72.
    12. Grau, Nicolas & Hojman, Daniel & Mizala, Alejandra, 2018. "School closure and educational attainment: Evidence from a market-based system," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 1-17.
    13. Richard O. Welsh & Matthew Duque & Andrew McEachin, 2016. "School Choice, Student Mobility, and School Quality: Evidence from post-Katrina New Orleans," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 11(2), pages 150-176, Spring.
    14. Larsen, Matthew F., 2020. "Does closing schools close doors? The effect of high school closings on achievement and attainment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).
    15. Oskari Harjunen & Tuukka Saarimaa & Janne Tukiaianen, 2021. "Love Thy (Elected) Neighbor? Residential Segregation, Political Representation and Local Public Goods," Discussion Papers 138, Aboa Centre for Economics.
    16. Larsson Taghizadeh, Jonas, 2019. "Effects of school closures on displaced students and future cohorts in Sweden 2000-2016," Working Paper Series 2019:4, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    17. Izadi, Ramin, 2015. "The impact of school closures on student achievement - evidence from rural Finland," Working Papers 63, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    18. Steinberg, Matthew P. & Ukert, Benjamin & MacDonald, John M., 2019. "Schools as places of crime? Evidence from closing chronically underperforming schools," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 125-140.
    19. Brummet, Quentin, 2014. "The effect of school closings on student achievement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 108-124.
    20. Thompson, Paul N., 2019. "Does a Day Lost Equal Dollars Saved? The Effects of Four-Day School Weeks on School District Expenditures," IZA Discussion Papers 12698, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    21. Dongre, Ambrish & Tewary, Vibhu, 2020. "Pain without gain?: Impact of school rationalisation in India," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).
    22. Steinberg, Matthew P. & MacDonald, John M., 2019. "The effects of closing urban schools on students’ academic and behavioral outcomes: Evidence from Philadelphia," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 25-60.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    School closures; Value-added; Low-performing schools;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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