Salvaging Assets: Considering Alternatives to School Closure

Apr 2008

Closing bad schools is necessary to maintain quality in a system based on performance accountability. However, even failing schools may have pockets of strength and/or assets that are worth preserving: a committed parent body, high-quality teachers, a valuable school building in a tight real estate market. Legal and policy constraints, limited organizational capacity and a belief in school autonomy have made charter school authorizers reluctant to take steps short of full closure. However, doing so could reduce political opposition to closure and reduce the costs faced by students and community members.

Three approaches--installation of new leaders, school reconstitution (where governance structures and personnel are replaced but students remain) and facility acquisition--have been successfully used in the private sector. School turnarounds are most likely to be successful when they build on authorizers' existing organizational processes, acknowledge the particular challenge of overcoming past failure and identify leaders who are up to the task.