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More Benefits Evident in N.Y.C.'s Small High Schools Experiment

Smaller high schools not only have a better record of getting students to graduate than larger schools, a new study in New York City shows the approach is improving college-going rates.

A report released Oct. 16 by MDRC, the nonprofit research organization based in New York, analyzed student outcomes over several years and found the small high school model raised graduation rates by 9.4 percentage points (71.6 percent compared to 62.2 percent) and improved college enrollment by 8.4 percentage points (to 49 percent). The cost of educating these students was lower than at other area high schools, according to the study.

The positive impact was evident across all groups, but was particularly strong among low-income students and students of color, MDRC found. For black males, college enrollment grew by 11 percentage points, which represented a 36 percent increase over those in control groups at other types of high schools.

In 2002, New York City set up the first 100 nonselective public high schools with about 100 students per grade in grades 9-12. Admitted by lottery, the small school concept was to provide students with challenging curriculum in a supportive environment where they could have access to teachers.

While earlier reports on the project revealed encouraging graduation rates, this report was the first to follow students on their path to college.

(See District Dossier blog for more.)

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