Sometimes closing a school isn’t a bad thing

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I know it seems like there’s a lot going on in education right now. From graduation scandals to guns in schools to teacher strikes – life in education has definitely not been a crystal stair lately. In Washington, D.C., 21 public charter schools have closed in the city since 2012, mainly due to academic deficiencies or fiscal mismanagement. When looking at this from the context of ensuring students are being served in a way that’s most beneficial to them, I have to say – sometimes closing a school isn’t a bad thing.

Many of us in the education reform space tout accountability in schools as one of our critical core areas of concentration. However, sometimes we find ourselves in the intersection of how our sector feels and how the community being served by the school feels about a school closure. As a parent, I am constantly holding my children’s school accountable. I truly believe we all have a role to play in providing top-notch educations for our children. When one part of that team is not holding up their part of the agreement, the other one has to hold them responsible.

In the case of schools, when they are failing to educate children, they must close. According to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the DC Public Charter School Board is considered to have a strong portfolio of schools because of various means they have employed to ensure schools’ performance meets their standards for closure, schools are informed about its underperformance from the authorizer years before the actual school closures, and lastly and perhaps most importantly, the authorizer works directly with parents of students at said schools to smoothly move them to other schools in the cases of closure.

What does that all mean? For parents, it means the authorizer is on YOUR side. It means that there is a governing body that is working on your behalf to ensure that your school choices are quality options. After all, what’s the point of having your child attend a school that is not doing the job of educating your child? In my opinion, there isn’t a point.

I have worked in leadership capacities for an urban school district right outside of Washington, D.C. as well as for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington so I’ve been in the middle of intense debates of school and club closures. Communities can become tied to the brick and mortar of buildings and nostalgic about the memories made years ago. And while I understand all of that, I have also witnessed what it looks like when children aren’t truly learning and how bleak their futures become. So it quickly becomes less about the memories and all about the what’s actually happening with and to the students or lack thereof.

When you have a group of people who are able to protect the interests of our most vulnerable citizens – children, especially those from marginalized communities – you want to acknowledge them and breathe a sigh of relief that they exist. This message is not to focus on the DCPCSB, but to acknowledge their work as an example of what it means to have a significant body of people who truly put children first.

It’s what I think all schools should do. Unfortunately, that does not mean it happens. And when it doesn’t, after a great ability to change the school around, in order for our children to be put first, sometimes schools need to be closed.