School & District Management

Students Attending Closing Schools Graduated With Less Rigorous Diplomas

By Denisa R. Superville — January 07, 2016 2 min read
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What happens to the students who are still attending low-performing high schools while those schools are being phased out?

A new look at such students at six comprehensive New York City high schools by the city’s Independent Budget Office found that those students were more likely to graduate with a local diploma, which is less rigorous than New York state’s Regents diploma.

Students in the first of two cohorts studied were less likely to graduate college-ready when compared to peers at demographically similar low-performing schools that had not been targeted for closure. In addition, students in the second cohort were less likely to graduate on time when compared to students at low-performing schools that were not scheduled to close, according to a brief the IBO released on Thursday.

The IBO looked at students who were in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades at South Shore, Samuel J. Tilden, and Lafayette high schools in the city’s Brooklyn borough, when the announcement was made to phase out those schools in the 2006-2007 school year, during the Michael R. Bloomberg administration. The IBO also replicated the study for a second cohort in similar grades at Bayard Rustin High School and Louis D. Brandeis High School, both in Manhattan, and Franklin K. Lane High School, in Brooklyn. Those schools were announced for phaseouts in the 2008-09 school year.

The graduation rate for the students at Tilden, Lafayette, and South Shore who were in the 2006-2007 group was similar to those in the comparison group, according to the IBO report, 46.2 percent for the study group and 47.3 percent for the comparison group. More than 60 percent of those students in the treatment group got a local diploma, according to the IBO.

For the 06-07 cohort, the IBO found no statistical difference in the students’ probability of graduating on time. That was not the case, however, for the later group. Students in that group who were attending schools that were scheduled to be phased out were significantly less likely to graduate on time.

For the second cohort, the share of graduates in the treatment group was lower than the comparison group, 44.6 percent for the treatment group, compared to 47.2 percent for the comparison group. In both groups, the impact of the closure on 11th graders was more “muted,” possibly because those students were already close to finishing high school when the closures were announced.

School closures and their impacts on students are fraught with controversy as schools officials and policymakers continue to wrestle with the best ways to turn around low-performing schools. A November report by the Research Alliance for New York City, which is based at New York University, examined the effects on the students at 29 low-performing high schools that were shuttered during the Bloomberg administration.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has criticized Bloomberg’s school closure policy. However, the administration recently said that it would close Renewal Schools—94 low-performing schools that have received additional funding and support—if they do not meet specific, targeted benchmarks.

You can dig into the full brief here on the IBO’s website.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.