Professional Doctorate in Educational Leadership (ProDEL)
School of Education
Gretchen G. Generett
Launcelot I. Brown
Fran J. Serenka
charter, closure, community, economic achievement gap, impact report, school
Often, school closures are seen as a "natural order" of events in communities with extreme economic struggles. My work challenges this premise.
In Pennsylvania, communities where schools selected for closure are often composed of rural, largely white or urban, largely minority, populations living at the margins amid the persistent yet growing economic divide. Within this milieu, communities and people at the margins are swept up in general educational trends, such as the risk of charter schools, siphoning students and funding from traditional, community-anchoring public schools and perpetuating systematic power and economic inequities, driven by political and philanthropic initiatives. The economic divide further pushes individuals and their communities away from the mainstream, creating a system of "haves" and "have nots." This work establishes that K-12 schools threatened by closure provide core educational services and act as community anchors that serve other essential functions, especially in communities of geographic and economic isolation. Research shows that the expected savings from school closures generally are overestimated and do not provide the savings anticipated. Post-closure systems may be more costly to operate, not only in terms of district budgets, but in the time, money and effort required for parents and children to fully participate in rich co- and extra-curricular learning experiences. Additionally, the loss of a school can further eviscerate its community.
To avert the "need" for closure and the loss of community anchoring institutions, this work suggests that schools and districts quantify and share with their public exactly what benefits schools provide to neighborhoods through easy-to-understand and easy-to-compile impact reports. Besides including the financial assessment of a school, the report attributes value to the ways in which the school and community positively interact.
Such a report opens the door to community discussion about improving K-12 education to best serve the needs of its community. While each community faces specific circumstances, committees focused on improvement and operating across different demographic and geographic boundaries could network to share helpful processes and experiences.
Through this exchange and community-building process, my work aspires to support schools and communities as a way of promoting social justice through education.
Ferrick-Roman, K. (2014). The New Endangered Species: Community-Anchoring Public Schools (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/536