Attached below is a report that SPS officials didn’t want you to see-fifteen years ago or now.
In the context of the controversial and contested closing of Doling Elementary*, the SPS Board and Administration commissioned Dr. John Alspaugh, of the University of Missouri-Columbia, to undertake a study of the relationship between school size and academic achievement in R-12’s remaining elementary schools.
Dr. Alspaugh’s findings were consistent with the growing body of national research at that time and demonstrated that, in our local schools, smaller schools outperformed larger schools.
His conclusions were not what most district officials expected or desired so, shortly after the completion of his work, he was released from his contract as the district’s educational policy and practices consultant. (He was fired.)
Although the original version of his work was never made publicly available, Dr. Alspaugh did publish his results in the accompanying document. In this nationally-released version, he omitted any specific references to SPS. For example, in the original version, the various local elementaries were listed and identified separately while in this version their individual results are obscured and generally aggregated.
Nonetheless, this remains the only research conducted locally on the critically important topic of school size and student achievement.
It remains important, especially because the “Proposition SPS” bond scheme will enlarge several schools, create large “co-located” K-8 campuses (the model for which is the failed Westport), and close schools and abandon buildings at many sites.
It’s also important because, had its insights been heeded prior to or during the wave of closures and consolidations that occurred during the 2000s, many children would not have been deprived of a better opportunity for improved academic and social outcomes and several neighborhoods would have been spared the damage that followed in the wake of this public disinvestment and abandonment.
(*The Doling students were subsequently tracked by SPS. They lost and never regained their prior higher levels of academic test scores.)