In the wake of the mass school closings, one measurable result

To the surprise of not one single CPS family who went through the process, the 2013 mass school closings did not result in the outcomes promised by mayor Rahm Emanuel, then-CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett, and the appointed board of education.

This will also surprise zero researchers who were rigorously examining the question at the time, zero community advocacy groups who were working with families likely to be affected, and zero students getting their communities yanked out from under them.

I suspect the only folks surprised by this will be the ones we’ll never hear a response from–the mayor, the board, and the CPS CEO.

But a new long-term study on the mass closings by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research demonstrates what all of us who were around back then anticipated at that time, and predicted. There have been no measurable positive outcomes for kids in either closing schools or welcoming schools. None.

The researchers looked at not only everybody’s favorite data point, test scores, but also added in mobility, attendance, suspension rates, and GPA, to get a fuller picture of outcomes. They also interviewed staff and students about their own experiences. This has been an exhaustive research effort spanning the five years since 2013.

You can read it right here yourself. Go ahead, give it a try. It’s long but clearly written, not at all weighed down by its extensive academic apparatus. It won’t make you want to claw your eyes out. The authors strike a reasonable, not hysterical tone, even disclosing that not all of the dire predictions of critics actually transpired in the aftermath: chaos, yes; negative learning effects, yes; insufficient preparation and support, yes; sudden rise in gang violence in consolidated schools and on “Safe Passage” paths, no.

None of the results of the research surprise me, but one outcome does stand out.

The sorrow.

The sorrow of children whose schools were closed.

It’s measurable. The researchers measured it. They liken the losses that the students–and teachers, staff, and families–experienced, to grief. The technical term for it is “institutional mourning.” Children and staff talked about losing their school “families,” spoke of the forced separations like a divorce, or a death. Generations-long relationships with schools ended abruptly after a pained, humiliating school year of battling to keep them open–schools that served as neighborhood anchors, social roots, home of beloved teachers. Most of the 50 shuttered schools have since stood empty and fallow after the closings, untended eyesores perpetually in the view of the kids who lived nearby, monuments to loss.

Thousands of children who experienced this loss, all at once. And it’s long term–it did not go away in a week or a month or a year.

Does it matter to anyone? Does it matter to the mayor? Would he say: but what is that to me?

What is it to him? The wholesale destruction of 50 communities in predominantly poor and minority neighborhoods, for no measurable benefit, leaving the measurable sadness of thousands of children in its wake?

We can only hope it’s the beginning of the end of mayoral control of CPS.



Follow me on twitter @foolforcps.


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