Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 6
For Most Students, Closing Failing Schools Doesn't Help
By Denisa R. Superville
Schools with a higher enrollment
of black and poor students are more
likely to be shut down for poor performance, and the majority of students
displaced by closures do not end up in
But for those students who landed
in better schools, their academic progress outpaced that of students in lowperforming schools that remained
open, according to new research from
the Center for Research and Education Outcomes, or CREDO, at Stanford University.
The academic gains on test scores
were particularly significant for black
and Latino students who ended up in
better schools. Most striking was the
finding for Hispanic students who
had attended low-performing charter schools: Those who ended up in
higher-performing schools gained the
equivalent of 74 additional days of
learning in math.
Those findings-from one of the
largest studies to date on how shuttering schools affects student achievement- reflect those of smaller, more
localized research on the controversial practice of closing schools.
The study, which looked at both
charter and regular public schools
in 26 states between the 2006-07
and 2012-13 academic years, found
that most school closures during
that period-69 percent in both sectors-were in urban areas. About 20
percent of the schools that were shut
down were in suburban areas. Both
supporters and opponents of shutting down low-performing public
schools are likely to see findings in
the study to fortify their arguments.
Kaitlin Banner, the deputy director
of the Advancement Project's Ending
the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track
Project, said the findings on the disparate impact for black and Latino
students were consistent with what
the civil rights group has heard from
communities in which it works.
"Our partners have found that
school closings aren't the answer,"
Banner said. "They often do not
have a say ... students are sent out
into various communities, they have
high transportation needs, and they
are unable to really access the quality of education that school closures
seem to promise to them."
Evidence for Decisionmakers
Less than half of students from
closed schools ended up in schools
that were better than the ones they
left behind as measured by state test
scores, according to the study. But a
higher percentage of charter school
students landed in better schools
than their peers at regular public
schools, an indication, researchers
posited, that charter school parents
are more experienced at seeking out
different schooling options.
Students who left before the lowperforming schools were closed had
a better shot of landing in a better
school, a possible indication that
there are a limited number of seats
in high-performing schools, said Margaret Raymond, CREDO's project
Researchers said they hope the report provides evidence help inform
the often contentious debate around
school closures as a means to improve achievement. But they wrote
that closing low-performing schools
remains an inevitable option since
other turnaround strategies have
not yielded widespread results.
Advocates argue that closing lowperforming schools gives students
who would otherwise be stuck the
opportunity to go to a better school.
Among charters, for example, students who ended up in "superior"
schools saw the equivalent of 40 extra
learning days, the study found. On
the flip side, the study also found that
going to a worse or equivalent school
had negative academic impacts.
But opponents argue that the burden of school closures falls disproportionately on poor, black, and Hispanic
The study did bear that out-and
researchers said concerns about eq-
uity should be an integral part of the
decision-making process. But it also
found that schools that were closed
displayed low-academic performance
and low enrollment in the three years
'Part of the Charter Bargain'
Greg Richmond, the president and
CEO of the National Association of
Charter School Authorizers, said the
report underscores the need for more
quality charter schools.
"The fact remains that school closure is an essential part of the charter bargain that recognizes educating
children is a privilege, one that every
school should continually earn,"
he said in a statement. "No school
should have a perpetual right to
exist, especially schools that consistently fail to educate children."
Still, only a small fraction of lowperforming schools identified by researchers were closed: 5.5 percent for
charters compared to 3.2 percent for
regular public schools. That means
thousands of students continued to
go to schools where average math
and reading scores were in the bottom 20 percent on state tests for two
years-the definition the researchers
used for low-performing.
Across the 26 states in the study,
researchers identified 1,522 lowperforming schools. Seventy-nine
percent were regular public schools;
the rest were charters.
The study also found major differences in how charter operators and
school districts or states dealt with
their lowest-performing schools.
While charter authorities shut
down their low performing campuses
at a higher rate than their counterparts in school districts, the sector
still allowed other low-performing
charters to stay open despite contracts that often contain language
about specific achievement targets.
"In this sense, charter authorizers'
determination and practice of shutting down low-performing schools
still fell short of the stipulation in
their contract with charter schools,
although they were more likely to
close poor-performing schools relative
to districts," the researchers wrote.
"Meanwhile, districts were evidently tolerant of low levels of, and
deterioration in, performance and
In raw numbers, more elementary
schools closed, but middle schools
had the highest rate of closure in
both sectors, according to the report.
Researchers used data from state
reading and math exams to calculate
academic performance and translated that into days of learning to
measure growth. They used school
closure data from the federal Common Core of Data.
Obama-Era School Snack Rules Slow to Change Students' Habits
By Evie Blad
While the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids
Act of 2010's nutrition standards for school
meals gobbled up headlines, a lesser known
set of rules created by the law is also bringing dramatic changes to the foods schools
offer to students.
The "smart snacks in schools" rules set firstof-their-kind standards for the types of foods
schools participating in the National School
Lunch Program sell, even foods sold outside
the lunchroom. Those rules set limits for items
sold in vending machines, a la carte lines, and
Advocates for the rules-which remain in
place even as the Trump administration acted
to loosen other school lunch requirements-
say it may take time to determine their effect
on students' eating habits.
Researchers at Virginia Tech University
surveyed the school eating habits of 6th graders at a cluster of Appalachian middle schools
before and after the smart snacks rules took
effect in 2014-15. They uncovered no significant changes in what students ate at school.
That's despite the rules' requirements that
grain-based products must be at least 50 percent whole-grain. Other products must have
fruit, vegetable, dairy, or protein as a first ingredient. Fewer than 35 percent of calories must be
from fat, and the rules limit sodium, sugar, caffeine, and total calories. Each state may set the
number of fundraisers that schools can exempt
from the nutritional standards each year.
It will take time to change the way students think about eating, rather than just
shifting the food options that are made
available to them, said Georgianna Mann,
an assistant professor of nutrition and hospitality management at Virginia Tech who
Federal rules approved during
the Obama administration
imposed stricter standards on
the types of foods that schools
may sell in vending machines,
a la carte lines, and school
QUIZ YOURSELF: Do you know which snacks meet the stricter standards?
co-authored the study.
"I think [the smart snacks rules] are a good
idea in theory," she said. "But what I think
they are really lacking is the focus on changing habits rather than shaving off a few calories at school."
Mann listed reasons why students may have
reported few changes in their eating patterns:
Schools took time to change the foods they
offered, students brought snacks from home,
and fundraisers took advantage of state waivers from the rules to sell unhealthy foods. She
also cited "lookalike snacks" produced by food
companies with packaging that looks exactly
like the original products, though the ingredients were modified to comply with the rules.
Students may have eaten those foods with-
6 | EDUCATION WEEK | August 30, 2017 | www.edweek.org
out realizing it, skewing the survey results,
and missing a chance to be more deliberate
about changing what they eat in and out of
school, Mann said.
Thirty-eight states and many districts have
regulations on school snacks and vending
machines that predate the federal rule, said
Stephanie Scarmo, an officer with the Kids'
Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a collaboration between The Pew Charitable Trusts and
the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Stricter Rules Bring Pushback
While it may take some time to gauge the effects of the federal smart snacks policy, previous
research has demonstrated positive effects of
those existing efforts, she said.
For example, a study of state rules in Massachussetts found that, as students purchased
fewer snacks, participation in school lunch programs increased.
Schools can more effectively change students'
habits by creating a local wellness plan that incorporates input from parents and community
members, said Jill Turley, the national nutrition
adviser with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. That input might help shape "celebration
policies" that replace classroom snacks with fun
activities, she said.
Some schools have incorporated healthy
eating into classroom work, like making ads
for healthy vending machine options. Others
have held taste tests of snacks before restocking vending machines.
The rules haven't been welcomed by all.
The School Nutrition Association, which
represents school nutrition workers, pushed
Congress to relax the rules on what can be
served in a la carte lines, claiming they were
A few high schools made headlines when
they opted out of the school lunch program
rather than comply with the rules. And some
conservative policymakers criticized rules
that cover fundraisers and bake sales as federal overreach, even though those rules allow
for state-level waivers.
Advocates for the snack rules say they
represent an important culture shift, even
though it may take schools some time to
"The biggest thing is that it helps to send
that consistent message to kids throughout
the school day..." Turley said. "If [students] go
to the vending machine and have all of these
unhealthy options, it sends an inconsistent
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 30, 2017
Education Week - August 30, 2017
Delayed Start to School Tough Call for Parents
More Americans Give Top Grades To Schools in Latest PDK Poll
An Unlikely ESSA Provision: Warning on Copyright Piracy
Grad. Rate Rule Creates Quandary for States
State Chiefs’ Pay Squeezed Between Duties, Politics
News in Brief
For Most Students, Closing Failing Schools Doesn’t Help
Obama-Era School Snack Rules Slow to Change Students’ Habits
The District Where Principals Run Their Schools—and Teach
Teacher Fellows Tread Fine Line At Ed. Dept
Federal Judge Finds ‘Racial Animus’ In Ariz. Ethnic-Studies Ban
How States Will Slice ESSA Block-Grant Pie
Hiring Deals Include More Than Base Pay
Monique Darrisaw-Akil: We Can Fix Credit Recovery
Bernard Gassaway: Public School Officials Are Artificially Inflating Graduation Rates. I’ve Seen It Myself
John Kline: ESSA Co-Author: Enforce the Law
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Miriam Kurtzig Freedman: Is the SAT Still Valid?
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - State Chiefs’ Pay Squeezed Between Duties, Politics
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 2
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 3
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 5
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Obama-Era School Snack Rules Slow to Change Students’ Habits
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - The District Where Principals Run Their Schools—and Teach
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Teacher Fellows Tread Fine Line At Ed. Dept
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 9
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 10
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 11
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 12
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 13
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - How States Will Slice ESSA Block-Grant Pie
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 15
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 16
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Hiring Deals Include More Than Base Pay
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Bernard Gassaway: Public School Officials Are Artificially Inflating Graduation Rates. I’ve Seen It Myself
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - John Kline: ESSA Co-Author: Enforce the Law
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 21
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 23
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Miriam Kurtzig Freedman: Is the SAT Still Valid?
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW4