New Research Validates Reform Efforts In NYC Small High Schools

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Attainment Rates for Regents Diplomas Up Across Every Subgroup of Students

Carnegie Corporation of New York applauds the findings of Sustained Positive Effects on Graduation Rates Produced by New York City’s Small Public High Schools of Choice, a major research report released today by MDRC based on data from a study of 105 academically nonselective small high schools of choice (SSC) that serve mostly disadvantaged students of color. The report demonstrates students enrolled in small schools were more likely to graduate than students in New York's larger public high schools. And, that the outcomes held true across all subgroups, including African-American and Latino males.

Read press release issued by MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research firm.

The report focuses on the new schools created by the New York City Department of Education in partnership with New Visions for Public Schools and other school development organizations with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation and the Open Society Institute through the New Century High Schools initiative. Partnerships with more than 225 community, cultural and higher education institutions help enrich students’ learning and stimulate academic achievement.

The MDRC report tracks more than 21,000 students and 105 schools.  The study’s rigorous design relied on New York City’s lotteries for high school admission to the new nonselective small schools.  On average, those who gain entry to the new small schools through the admissions lottery and those who do not are the same in all ways before they enter high school. Consequently, it is valid to attribute any differences in their future academic outcomes to their access to an SSC.

Important findings include:

• Sustained impacts on graduation with Regents diplomas: With 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).

Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York, said, “With vision, dedication, enormous political will and rigorously-tested strategies to stimulate and enrich student learning, graduation rates—across all groups of students—can be significantly improved in large, urban school systems.   Carnegie Corporation of New York is proud and delighted to have supported this effort in partnership with the Gates Foundation and the Open Society Institute.”

 “The small public high schools of choice initiative was an effort to radically rethink urban public high school education to create schools with teachers and principals who have the know-how and the latitude to deliver a far greater number of under-prepared adolescents to meaningful graduation standards,” said Michele Cahill, Vice President, National Program, and Program Director, Urban Education at Carnegie Corporation of New York who, in 2001, shaped the small public high schools of choice initiative along with the Gates Foundation and the Open Society Institute.  “Like many urban districts,” Cahill continued, “New York City had some excellent high schools, but far too many students attended large, persistently low-performing schools.  The conditions at these schools had to be dramatically changed to focus on the accountability necessary to deliver student achievement."

Cahill added, “While size can enable personalization, it must be accompanied by strategies to recruit and support effective principals and teachers, increase internal accountability for student learning, strengthen curriculum and instructional innovation to engage students and accelerate their learning.  And the non-profit organizations that have been core partners to these schools were critical to achieving these results.”

Prior to rejoining Carnegie Corporation in 2007, where she was a Senior Program Officer in Education from 1999 to 2002, Michele Cahill held the position of senior counselor to the chancellor for education policy in the New York City Department of Education under Chancellor Joel Klein. Cahill was a member of the Children First senior leadership team that oversaw and implemented the full-scale reorganization and reform of the New York City public schools. She oversaw the Children First reforms in secondary education, including new school development. Cahill led a number of research and development projects and co-managed the cross-functional school restructuring processes for more than four years.

About Carnegie Corporation of New York


Carnegie Corporation of New York is a philanthropic foundation created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to do "real and permanent good in this world."  Through its Urban and Higher Education program, the foundation strives to enable all students, including historically underserved populations and immigrants, to achieve academic success and perform with high levels of creative, scientific, and technological knowledge and skill. Current priorities include upgrading the standards and assessments that guide student learning, improving teaching and ensuring that effective teachers are well deployed in our nation's schools, and promoting innovative new school and system designs. In addition, the program integrates these three areas through efforts to improve policy, and thus create stronger conditions and platforms for accountability, innovation, and systemic reform.