10/28/2010 09:31 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Solution For Low-Performing Schools: Close Them?

The New York Department of Education released a list of 47 "failing" schools Thursday that could be shut down by the end of this school year, reports NY1.

The list, which includes 19 schools the city tried to close last year, has sparked controversy among teachers unions, parents and teachers throughout New York City.

According to NY1, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement:

"If [Schools Chancellor] Joel Klein and [Mayor] Michael Bloomberg want their legacy to be closing every school in New York City, they should be ashamed. They should be focused on fixing schools, not shuttering them."

But the list is subject to change over the next few months -- schools will be added after the state releases its annual list of the lowest-achieving schools. And some currently on the list will get another chance:

Schools can get removed from the list if officials decide after meeting with parents, teachers and community members that they can improve with major changes -- like a new principal or staff.

The heated debate over school closings comes as no surprise. It's one of the most controversial decisions an educational reformer can make. Former DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee closed 23 schools in her first year -- in addition to firing principals, teachers and education staff at surviving schools -- and remained a polarizing figure nationwide until her resignation earlier this month.

Rhee argued to The New York Times after her first year:

"Public education is supposed to be the great equalizer in this country...Instead, children who grow up in Georgetown and those who grow up in the poor, mostly black neighborhood of Anacostia get two wildly different educational experiences. There's a lot of data showing that we're utterly failing our children in this district."

School closings were her answer -- one that many agree with. But others argue that schools should be paid attention to, not closed. The fear is that the students whose schools have closed will make a lateral move to other low-performing schools.

Parents in Boston gathered earlier this week to protest the closing of eight schools after the city's superintendent encouraged them via letter to move their children to other schools, some of which are also considered low-performing schools.

Both sides make valid points. The schools labeled "failing" fit the bill fairly obviously. But is the solution to shut them down and refocus -- or keep them open and reinvent?