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Reading scores: Receiving schools not much better than those District proposes to close

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

A Notebook analysis of reading proficiency rates at schools affected by the District’s closing plan found that, overall, the schools assigned to receive students displaced by closings are similarly low-performing when compared to the schools targeted for closing.

Some proponents of school closings have argued that closings are a way to shift students into higher-performing schools, but this analysis does not support that view.

Among the receiving schools identified by the District in the closings plan, the median reading proficiency rate is 32 percent. Among the schools that are closing, the proficiency rate is almost identical at 31 percent. Both groups of schools, on balance, are significantly below the districtwide reading proficiency rate of 45 percent.

Reading proficiency rates are just one measure of a school’s academic performance. We chose this benchmark because of the role that literacy plays in a student’s future success.

But in the District’s recommendations, more than a third of the 62 pairings involve sending students to a school where reading proficiency rates are at least five points lower than the school targeted for closing. In 10 cases, closing schools have been paired with a receiving school whose reading proficiency rate is 10 points lower.

The data show that some of the receiving schools are higher performing, with reading proficiency rates coming in at five or more points higher in 29 percent of the pairings of closing and receiving schools.

Proficiency rates at receiving schools vary widely. Several of the high schools slated to receive displaced students have reading proficiency rates below 20 percent. Two of the designated receiving schools for closings in West Philadelphia — High School of the Future and Middle Years Alternative — have admissions criteria and reading proficiency rates of 61 percent and 71 percent, respectively.

Reading proficiency at closing and receiving schools from psnotebook Data compiled by Charlotte Pope.

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