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Most students from closing schools would move to schools of similar caliber

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

by Julie Mazziotta

Most of the 29 Philadelphia schools slated to close performed similarly in measures of academic achievement to those of the schools that would absorb them, according to a recent analysis.

Research for Action, a research group focused on educational reform, conducted the study, which compared state test scores and yearly progress benchmarks of the 29 schools slated for closure with those of the 48 receiving schools. Of the receiving schools, 44 exhibited similar scores in reading, and 36 in math on last year’s state exam known as the PSSA.

The findings echo Superintendent William Hite’s recent claim that the District’s proposal worked to place students at better-performing or similarly achieving schools. Proponents of the closings plan say that its goal, ultimately, is to have all students in higher-performing schools.

Looking at schools’ PSSA scores in math and reading from last school year, RFA found that the majority of the schools had similar scores. Just one school, South Philadelphia High, performed worse than its sending school, in this case Bok. None performed significantly worse in math. Only nine schools performed better in reading. In math, 19 receiving schools had better scores than the designated closing schools.

The study also looked at the “adequate yearly progress” results of the schools, which considers test scores, attendance records, and graduation rates. The AYP calculations, however, reflect PSSA scores during a period when adults apparently cheated in some District schools before tighter security measures were put in place last year.

A similar comparison of test scores at closing and receiving schools performed by the Notebook earlier this month, before the District’s revision of its closure list, focused only on reading proficiency rates. In that comparison, which was not a rigorous statistical analysis like Research for Action’s study, a greater number of schools assigned to receive students were found to be lower-performing.

Julie Mazziotta is an intern at the Notebook.