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Who Wins and Who Loses When Big Schools Are Closed Down?

For years, educators, parents and experts have debated the merits of whether smaller schools truly provide a better opportunity and atmosphere where children can learn. But even as that debate continues, more and more large schools are being shut down and Thursday on the NewsHour, we explore another dimension to this story: What happens to the kids who don’t make it into the smaller schools?

New York City’s outgoing schools chancellor Joel Klein is a big believer in closing down some of the large high schools that have a poor record. He’s closed 26 of them over the past eight year.

Our report will come from special correspondent John Tulenko of Learning Matters, (which produces education pieces for the NewsHour) who will explore how some students are blossoming when they are transferred to smaller high schools, while other very needy kids are diverted to other large schools.

Joel Klein tells Tulenko that when he shut down schools in Bushwick, for example, students went from schools with a 35 percent graduation rate to one with 72 percent graduation rates. “My job,” he says, “is to create a different option for those kids.”

But Michael Mulgrew, the president of the local teachers’ union tells Tulenko there are communities paying the price with the transfer of more needy or difficult students. As he told John: “We had a great school eight years ago and now we have a school that has all sorts of problems, but we don’t feel it was of our doing.”

We hope you can tune in or watch it online later tonight. And if you want more coverage, check out these podcasts from Learning Matters to get a fuller sense of the viewpoints from those we profiled in our story. An interview with a former principal and teacher at a large school slated to close; two teachers who have moved from large schools to a small one. And a longer interview with Principal Tanya John at the High School for Violin and Dance, home to just 259 students.

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