Sunday, February 12, 2012

Successes of Small Schools

More wonderful outcomes from the recent MDRC study: here's an AMAZING editorial in today's NYT – I hope you're sitting down – in favor of shutting down "large schools with failing records" and replacing them with "small, well-structured schools":


February 8, 2012

Successes of Small Schools

School reform advocates are rightly encouraged by new data showing that New York City students at small, specialized high schools are more likely to graduate than students in large, traditional high schools.

The findings, part of a continuing study by the nonprofit research group MDRC, offer hope for reformers trying to save children from dropout factories in the poorest communities. It also vindicates the small school strategies of the Bloomberg administration, which has shut down about 30 large high schools in the past decade and created about 300 small schools, about a third of which are the focus of the study. Some of the large schools that the city closed down enrolled 3,000 students or more and had graduation rates under 40 percent.

The small schools that replaced them, most of them in poor neighborhoods, serve about 400 students each. They have strong curriculums and offer a personalized approach, with teachers responsible for monitoring a specific number of students. They are also organized around themes like science or law and often form partnerships with businesses, colleges and cultural groups.

The study, which is following more than 21,000 students, looks at those who were admitted to small schools by lottery and those who attended other high schools. It found that 67.9 percent of the students who entered small schools in 2005 and 2006 graduated four years later compared with 59.3 percent of students at larger schools. The higher graduation rate at the small schoolsheld for students of all races and incomes. Those students also scored higher on parts of the state Regents exams than their large-school counterparts.

The city is currently locked in battle with teachers and community groups that continue to resist closing large schools with failing records. The latest data provide sound evidence that small, well-structured schools can make a difference.

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