Small is successful

New York City’s new small high schools are graduating more students and sending them to college, concludes a WestEd report funded by the small-friendly Gates Foundation. WestEd looked at 14 small schools created to replace low-performing high schools. All graduated their first class in 2006. While the citywide graduation rate is 58 percent, the new schools graduated 79 percent of the class and sent 69 percent of graduates on to college. More than “80 percent of the schools’ graduates did not meet New York State standards in English and Math when they entered ninth grade,” the report emphasizes.

Each of the 14 schools examined had successfully created a “college-going” culture through academic programs that emphasize the new “3 Rs” – rigor, relevance and relationships. For example, the schools provide increased access to advanced courses, better preparation for Regents exams, and extra support to help struggling students catch up; connect curricula to students’ personal experiences, contemporary issues and career opportunities; and encourage strong relationships between teachers, students and their families to give students more individualized attention and to enable their families to support them.

Can this small school success be replicated on a larger scale? WestEd has some ideas, including better coordination with K-8 schools.

Update: Philadelphia schools are improving, concludes a Center for Education Reform report, which credits the dynamic leadership of Paul Vallas, who allowed a variety of education providers to take over failing schools and compete for students.

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