Maybe school consolidation “worked” for a while, but to judge from the size at which operational costs are minimized (3,000 students for an entire district and with serious inefficiencies becoming evident at 15,000 students), district consolidation has proceeded to a scale at which the claim of “working” appears hollow. (See this article in the Yonder and our full-length policy brief.)
Huge districts can work of course, but mostly they don’t work very well. The size-related odds, after all, are stacked heavily against efficiency and effectiveness. The larger the district—on average—the less favorable the odds.
Worse still, with huge size, the odds are stacked against kids, families, educators, urban neighborhoods, and rural communities. This insight is simply a logical extension of the twin literatures on the relationship of size to cost and achievement. Consolidation has probably outlived its educational and economic usefulness and is now living quite beyond its means, and possibly society’s as well.Craig Howley, Jerry Johnson, and Jennifer Petrie go on to argue that after decades of increasing district consolidation, it may be time for research to think about when deconsolidation might be a constructive step.
I agree that it's an idea worth researching--while appreciating the authors' clarity that the evidence is not yet in. Both the Daily Yonder post and the full policy brief behind it are worth a read.