Sustained Progress: New Findings About the Effectiveness and Operation of Small Public High Schools in New York City

The small-schools movement has had its share of naysayers over the years, but results from New York City’s small high schools continue to show positive results, particularly for disadvantaged kids. This week, MDRC researchers Howard S. Bloom and Rebecca Unterman released the results of their latest installment of a multi-year study of the city’s small schools of choice (those that the Bloomberg administration has opened since 2002 to replace larger, failing high schools) and their findings still show that students who win lottery admission to these schools are significantly more likely to graduate than lottery losers. The newest study includes results for a new cohort of students and, for the first time, examines the outcomes of special-education students and English-language learners. The upshot: SSC students boasted a 70.4 percent graduation rate, compared with 60.9 percent at traditional schools (all the more significant because traditional students have been graduating at higher rates). Bloom and Unterman also suggest that SSCs increased the graduation rates of special-education students by 13.8 percentage points and of ELL students by 4.9 percentage points (though they admit the sample size for these subgroups was small). MDRC has promised another report that will look at the factors that have led to these positive results. With hope, that will give us a genuine blueprint—and a way to quiet the naysayers.

Source: Howard S. Bloom and Rebecca Unterman, “Sustained Progress: New Findings About the Effectiveness and Operation of Small Public High Schools of Choice in New York City,” MDRC, August 2013.

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