We are an independent, solution-oriented think tank at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy.Learn More.

The Upgrade Rule: Navigating Students to Better Schools

School closures occur for various reasons such as declining enrollment, facilities issues or poor performance. These closures disproportionally affect minority and low-income communities, where families tend to have little agency in the process. The resulting disruption that can result in losses academically and socially.

EdNavigator, a nonprofit organization, is seeking to change this pattern so that no school is closed unless students are moving to a better school. They call it the Upgrade Rule. To make this a reality, EdNavigator provided unbiased independent guidance to New Orleans families from 2017 to 2019, when seven schools closed. Families in closing schools received flyers and packets, in-person and phone conversations and text messages. During this time, EdNavigator supported 1,700 families and learned what strategies made the largest difference.

EdNavigator recommends school districts give families from closing schools preferential treatment in the enrollment process and operate on a timeline that allows enough time for families to find alternatives. Additionally, it is important to invest in resources to adequately communicate with families, such as creating guides or offering support in multiple languages. And the district should bring support to families rather than waiting for them to reach out.

By using these strategies, 93 percent of students from closing schools in New Orleans were awarded seats in schools with a higher state letter grade than the one they left behind.