Transforming the High School Experience: How New York City’s New Small Schools Are Boosting Student Achievement and Graduation Rates

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MDRC

This report confirms that New York City’s small schools, introduced in 2002 after several underperforming public high schools were shut down, already have increased chances of student success .

At a time when high school reform is at the crux of the nation’s focus, these “small schools of choice” (SSCs) emphasize strong relationships between students and faculty. They are not only small but also academically nonselective.  The authors found evidence of positive outcomes for students of all backgrounds during as early as ninth grade. 

The report states that students at SSCs are more likely to be on track to graduate by the end of their first year of high school compared with those at non-SSCs by 10 percentage points.  By the last year of high school, SSCs were found to increase overall graduation rates by 6.8 percentage points.

These positive effects were also felt by male students of color and students with lower academic proficiency, a feat that has been historically difficult to accomplish.

The study sampled four groups of students that entered high school in the fall of 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

The authors of the study conclude that it is possible to implement an effective model to improve academic outcomes of the most disadvantaged students related to graduation and college preparation within a relatively short amount of time.

Free, 189 pages. www.mdrc.org/publications/560/overview.html.