SAN FRANCISCO — At San Francisco's Willie Brown Jr. College Preparatory Academy, enrollment has plummeted and student performance has lagged. School officials have decided it's better to close.

It's one of a very small number that have chosen to take that route.

For better or worse, district officials are reluctant to close neighborhood schools — even when they have been shown to produce poor results for years or even decades.

The U.S. Department of Education is devoting $3.5 billion — the largest amount ever — to turning around the nation's failing schools. More than 800 have been identified as "persistently low achieving."

Of those, just 16 are closing. How effective the closures are will largely depend on where children are sent. Not all of the new schools are significantly better.