Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: The Impact of School Closures and Contract Turnover on Student Achievement: Evidence from New Orleans

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 4:30 PM
Tequesta (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Whitney Ruble, Tulane University
Several shifts in public opinion and public policy surrounding education in The United States have led to contracting out entire public schools to independent management organizations. The debate between direct government provision versus contracting out is an old one. Theoretical research concludes that in order for contracting to improve upon direct provision, the government agency must have the ability to measure quality and efficiency, the ability to establish contracts that align incentives between themselves and the vendor, and the ability to terminate low-performing contracts and replace them.  (Domberger and Jensen, 1997; Megginson and Netter, 2001). In reality, the termination of a contract requires either closing a school or restarting it under new management. These types of changes can have several impacts on a student, and it is unclear whether the net impact will be positive or negative, and whether or not closures and restarts differ in their impact.

Descriptive research on the efficacy of closing and restarting charter schools exists along with some empirical research on the impacts of closing and restarting district schools, but none focus on the impacts of closing and restarting charter schools, specifically. One recent study by CREDO evaluates one charter restart, one Recovery School District (RSD) restart and one closure in New Orleans that received federal i3 grants for restarting under new management, and finds that students overall experienced significant negative impacts in reading after one year. Other studies of restarts and closures in Chicago, Philadelphia, Michigan, and other urban districts find mixed results on their effectiveness, with most finding an initial negative shock that fades over time (Brummet, 2012; Engberg et al., 2012; Gill et al., 2007; de la Torre et al., 2012). Collectively, there are not clear patterns for what to expect for the impacts on students who are affected by a closure or restart. This research will estimate the impacts for students who experience district closures and restarts as well as charter closures and restarts, allowing several more comparisons than previous literature.

My paper will be the first to study the impacts of charter restarts and closures on student performance. New Orleans has converted the majority of its public schools to charter schools over the past ten years, providing a district in which to study restarts and closures of both state-run district schools and charter schools, allowing comparisons between the two. The analysis will answer the following research questions. Does the use of restart and closures as contract turnover improve quality as measured by student performance? Do charter restarts and closures have different outcomes than other schools that are closed or restarted?