New York City’s small high schools, once derided as a Gates-funded flop, increase students’ odds of graduating and going to college and cost less per graduate, concludes a new MRDC study that compared small school students with applicants who applied but lost a lottery.
Some 200 small schools were created between 2002 and 2008, usually serving disadvantaged students in buildings that had housed large, low-performing high schools.
Black males showed the strongest gains, writes Patricia Willens on NPR.
Because more students earned a diploma in four years, rather than five, costs were 14 to 16 percent lower per graduate, MDRC estimated.
While critics have labeled the Gates effort a failure, other researchers have been monitoring small schools for decades and have found generally positive impacts.
A review of studies published between 1990 and 2009 found “the weight of evidence … clearly favors smaller schools.” An MIT study of New York City public small high schools also found positive effects: higher graduation rates, better test scores and an increase in college enrollment.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been critical of closing large high schools to create smaller specialized schools, notes the New York Times editorial board. He pledges to help improve schools before closing them. “Given the clear benefits that have accrued to the city’s most vulnerable students, Mr. de Blasio should not shy away from the option of shutting down big schools and remaking them from scratch, particularly in cases where the school has been failing for a long time and its culture is beyond repair.”