Study Finds Bad Schools Rarely Get Better—or Shut Down

The lowest-performing public K-8 schools often linger in that state for years, neither improving enough to get off accountability life support nor being shuttered completely, and persistently failing charter schools fare no better than regular public schools, a new study finds.

Of 2,025 chronically low-performing elementary and middle schools identified in 10 states in 2003-04, it found, only about 1 percent had improved enough to exceed their states’ average academic performance five years later, and fewer than 10 percent had even broken out of the lowest 25 percent of schools in their states. The findings are in a report released Tuesday by the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Basis Policy Research, of Raleigh, N.C.

Despite such a dismal record, only 19 percent of the lowest-performing charter schools and 11 percent of their more-traditional public school peers had been closed after five years, according to lead author David A. Stuit, a founding partner of Basis Policy Research.

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