Students in 105 of New York City’s 123 so-called “small schools of choice” grew more academically, especially in English, and were more likely to graduate than students in the school system’s larger public high schools, according to a report released last week by the MDRC, a New York-based education and social-research organization.
The researchers also found that the positive outcomes held true for all subgroups, including African-American and Latino males, students who tested at all levels of proficiency in mathematics, and students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
The study tracks 21,000 students—most from poor neighborhoods in the Brooklyn and Bronx boroughs—who entered 9th grade in 2004 and 2005. Students from both cohorts were more likely to pass the state regents’ English exam and had higher graduation rates than control groups of students who applied to the same high schools but did not get in. The small schools of choice also graduated a higher percentage of students within four and five years.
The researchers said the results were particularly striking given the demographics of the students enrolled at the small schools. Eighty-three percent of the small-schools students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Ninety-three percent are black or Hispanic, and more than 63 percent entered 9th grade behind grade level.
The study is a follow-up to MDRC’s first report on New York City’s small schools in June 2010, which also showed positive results. The authors said the addition of the second cohort of students allowed the study to probe further into different subgroups’ performance and to discover the impact on five-year graduation rates.
A version of this article appeared in the February 01, 2012 edition of Education Week as N.Y.C.'s Small Schools Still Showing Gains