Study finds school closures in NYC benefitted rising ninth-graders

Study finds school closures in NYC benefitted rising ninth-graders
Students enrolled in higher performing high schools, more likely to earn Regents diploma

July 21, 2016—The closure of 44 low-performing New York City high schools between 2000 and 2014 sparked intense protests and concern that the closures would harm students. But the most rigorous assessment to date of the closures’ impact suggests a different story. In a new article for Education Next, James Kemple of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools finds that NYC’s school closures increased the odds that rising 9th graders would attend a higher performing high school and substantially improved their likelihood of graduating high school with a New York State Regents diploma.

The analysis includes 29 high schools that were designated for closure between 2002 and 2008. The 11,000 students in the study’s post-closure cohort—students who would have been likely to attend one of the 29 closed schools had they remained open—were instead distributed across 374 different high schools. In general, these schools were higher-performing, with higher attendance rates and students who had higher 8th-grade test scores, than the schools that the post-closure students would have otherwise attended.

Closures produced positive and statistically significant impacts for displaced students, increasing their graduation rates by 15.1 percentage points (see figure below). All of that improvement came through a 17.4 percentage point increase in the share of students earning more rigorous Regents diplomas.

Kemple notes that although the high school closures benefited the post-closure cohort of students without harming the academic outcomes of students attending or transferring out of closure schools during the phase-out process, only 56 percent of students in the post-closure cohort graduated high school within four years. “This highlights deeply entrenched inequalities in New York City schools…there is a need to invest in vulnerable students and to identify structures and supports that maximize their odds of success.”

To receive an embargoed copy of “School Closures in New York City: Did students do better after their high schools were closed?” or to speak with the author, please contact Jackie Kerstetter at The article will be available Tuesday, July 26 on and will appear in the Fall 2016 issue of Education Next, available in print on August 29, 2016.

About the Author: James J. Kemple is the Executive Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, a nonpartisan research center housed at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University.

About Education Next: Education Next is a scholarly journal committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform, published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School. For more information, please visit


Last Updated


Notify Me When Education Next

Posts a Big Story

Business + Editorial Office

Program on Education Policy and Governance
Harvard Kennedy School
79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone (617) 496-5488
Fax (617) 496-4428

For subscription service to the printed journal
Phone (617) 496-5488

Copyright © 2024 President & Fellows of Harvard College