A recent study found a growing national trend of school boards and superintendents closing schools in low-income urban neighborhoods based on the schools’ poor performance. Key factors used during the decision making process include – Low Test Scores, Low Graduation Rates and Poor Attendance. The study, conducted by Muhammad Khalifa, assistant professor of educational administration at Michigan State University, found that the growing trend of closing urban schools is based on an incomplete statistical representations of the schools’ performance that omits key factors like teacher quality and lack of funding available to schools located in low-income neighborhoods.
Exacerbating this trend is the fact that people effected by closing schools “generally don’t have a lot of political clout or money to get their voices heard” said Khalifa.This report shines light on the differing opinions of school officials and parents and communities activists in reference to what data points and factors should be considered when closing urban schools. Viewed as the cornerstone of their communities, parents argue closing urban schools will cripple struggling neighborhoods. In addition to differing opinions, results indicate that officials routinely listen, but do not respond to the pleas from the community to consider the full picture when deciding whether or not to close an under-performing school.
While Khalifa is quick to point out the errors in the decision making process, he is clear to note that he is not suggesting under-performing urban schools be exempt from scrutiny, he is simply asking that school officials consider all the facts before closing urban schools in low-income neighborhoods. Above the historical data points considered, Khalifa would like officials to consider teacher quality, funding issues and community voices during the process.