Monday, January 30, 2012

STOP THE PRESSES! Sustained Positive Effects on Graduation Rates Produced by New York City's Small Public High Schools of Choice

STOP THE PRESSES!  Only two weeks after the release of the seminal NBER study on the long-term impacts of teachers, tonight another hugely important study worthy of its own email was released (the full report is attached; the press release and NYT story are below).   This one, by respected research firm MDRC, examined the impact and effectiveness of the 123 small high schools of choice that Bloomberg and Klein set up to replace chronically failing mega-sized high schools that were closed.  The researchers tracked tens of thousands of NYC high school students, both ones who won the lottery to attend a small school and those who didn't – and the results are stunningly positive for the new, smaller schools.  Here are one friend's comments:


I believe the update has national relevance and particular resonance in cities dealing with school closures and turnaround.


In 2010 MDRC published findings showing small schools very significantly raised graduation rates and rates of staying on track for graduation. 


A second cohort of students in the study, which is random-sampled and involves more than 21,000 students, has now graduated and the results are even more emphatic. Small schools raise the graduation rate by 8.6 points for their overwhelmingly disadvantaged student population. That's 43% of the achievement gap in NYC. The percentage of students in these schools passing the English Regents exam at 75 and above--a critical indicator of college success in NY--is 7.1 points higher, or nearly 25% higher, than for similar students in other schools.


There have been innumerable high school reform efforts over the years, particularly since "A Nation At Risk" was published in 1983, but no evidence that any worked at scale. Now there is evidence. And it's happening at a time when the politics and finances of school turnaround have never been more contested and consequential, playing out in districts across the country. 


Here's an excerpt from the press release:


At the heart of this reform are 123 small, academically nonselective, public high schools. Each with approximately 100 students per grade in grades 9 through 12, these schools were created to serve some of the district's most disadvantaged students and are located mainly in neighborhoods where large failing high schools had been closed. For 105 of these schools that had more applicants than seats available, MDRC's study takes advantage of the lottery-like features in New York City's high school admissions process to compare over time the academic outcomes of students who won lotteries and enrolled in the small schools with those who sought admission, lost a lottery, and enrolled in other New York City high schools.


In June 2010, MDRC released the first report from its study, which showed that the new small high schools increased students' likelihood of earning credits, progressing through school, and graduating in four years with Regents diplomas. This new brief extends the analysis by a year, allowing for examination of a second cohort of students to reach graduation. The study's new findings include:


·         Sustained impacts on graduation with Regents diplomasWith the addition of a second cohort, average four-year graduation effects have reached 8.6 percentage points (meaning nearly nine more graduates for every class of 100 entering ninth-graders). This effect is driven by an increase in Regents diplomas attained.

·         Positive graduation effects for virtually every subgroup, including students with low entering proficiency in math and English (levels 1 and 2, in New York City terminology), males and females, blacks and Hispanics, and eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch.

·         A positive effect on a measure of college readiness: a 7.6 percentage point (or 25 percent) impact on scoring 75 or higher on the English Regents exam (which exempts students from remedial English at the City University of New York). There was no effect on scoring 75 or higher on the math Regents exam.

·         Five-year graduation effect: Students in the new small high schools are 7.1 percentage points more likely to graduate in five years than their control group counterparts (75.2 percent vs. 68.1 percent).


The study looks at graduation by subgroups and finds that enrolling in a small high school of choice substantially increases graduation rates for every major subgroup examined, including students who enter high school below grade level in academic proficiency, low-income students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and black and Hispanic, male and female students.


The study is unprecedented in three ways: 


1) First, the reforms themselves — closing failing high schools,  opening a next generation of small schools redesigned from top to bottom to replace them, and simultaneously introducing a system of choice for all entering high schoolers, which essentially made this choice without charters — the teachers are unionized, etc. 


2) Second, the characteristics of the students served — 93% black or Hispanic, 83% low-income, 63% behind in math proficiency grade level when they entered 9th grade and 70% behind in reading proficiency. 


3) Third, the findings themselves — large positive impacts at scale on graduation rates with nearly all of those gains due to Regents Diplomas.  And these impacts are consistent across every group of students the researchers looked at — students who were behind, black males, economically disadvantaged students, etc.




For immediate release: January 26, 2012

Contact: John Hutchins, MDRC Communications Director, 212-340-8604

 New Findings Show New York City's Small High Schools Continue to Significantly Raise Graduation Rates and Improve English Regents Exam Scores


Graduation Rates at Small Schools, Which Serve Highly Disadvantaged Students, Are 8.6 Percentage Points Higher Than Other Schools


Effects Seen Across Every Subgroup of Students, Including African-American and Hispanic Males, Less-Proficient Students, and Low-Income Students


City Students at Small Public High Schools Are More Likely to Graduate, Study Says

Published: January 25, 2012

New York City teenagers attending small public high schools with about 100 students per grade were more likely to graduate than their counterparts at larger schools, according to new findings from a continuing study released on Wednesday night.

The findings are part of a study that tracked the academic performance of more than 21,000 students who applied for ninth grade admission at 105 small high schools, mainly in Brooklyn and in the Bronx, from 2005 to 2008. The study appeared to validate the Bloomberg administration's decade-long push to create small schools to replace larger, failing high schools.


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