Enrollment losses in cities prompt talk of school closures

April 26, 2022

Research on the academic effects of school closures is mixed. If displaced students wind up at a substantially better school, they tend to do better. But students often end up at a similarly performing school, and the closure does academic harm. 

Another recent study found that school closures in Black communities can contribute to gentrification, which itself can mean fewer students enrolled in a neighborhood school. That “can lead to further school closures — which can start the cycle back over again,” said Pearman, who coauthored the study with Stanford graduate student Danielle Marie Greene.

In recent years, school closures have also been disproportionately experienced by Black students. In a preliminary study, Pearman and Greene found that schools with mostly Black students were three times more likely than other schools to be closed between 2000 and 2018. 

Pearman argues that the key is to create a fair and transparent process for determining which schools will be closed. Still, that often doesn’t assuage skeptics.