Small Schools

The Case of Career and Technical Education

July, 2017

In the complex high school choice process, families may face an additional layer of decisions if they are considering career and technical education programs, which vary widely in their structure, content, and quality. This issue focus emphasizes the importance of providing families with clear information about how to compare them.

April, 2016

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states greater responsibility for choosing strategies to improve underperforming schools. For over a decade, MDRC has rigorously evaluated school improvement strategies, collecting evidence that can help states determine which strategies are likely to work. This Issue Focus describes four of MDRC’s most recent studies.

Examples, Evidence, and Prospects

April, 2015

High school reform is increasingly focused on the role of career-technical education (CTE) in preparing all students for success in both college and career. Instead of stand-alone vocational courses, programs that merge CTE, rigorous academics, and career exploration are gaining momentum, but schools need resources and training to implement them.

October, 2014

Since 2010, MDRC has published a series of reports from its ongoing evaluation of small, nonselective public high schools in New York City. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the study.

October, 2014

The city’s small, academically nonselective high schools have substantially improved graduation rates for disadvantaged students. This report demonstrates that, because more of their students graduate and do so within four years, the schools have lower costs per graduate than the schools their study counterparts attended.

The Effects of New York City’s Small High Schools of Choice on Postsecondary Enrollment

October, 2014

New data from a rigorous study confirm that New York City’s small public high schools, which have nonselective admissions and serve many disadvantaged students, increase rates of graduation and college attendance for a wide range of groups, including students of color.

The Importance of Evidence

July, 2014

In this essay, adapted from remarks made to the Growth Philanthropy Network/Social Impact Exchange 2014 Conference on Scaling Impact, MDRC President Gordon Berlin explains why developing reliable evidence of effectiveness is critical when expanding programs to a large scale.

Evidence from Promising Programs

June, 2014

A review of high-quality studies, this paper highlights interventions — in education, employment and training, and second-chance programs — that have demonstrated positive results for young men of color. It comes as policymakers and philanthropies focus new attention on investing more to build opportunities for these young men. 

Educational Challenges and MDRC’s Research

May, 2014

MDRC hosted a recent colloquium to celebrate our 40th anniversary and the contributions of former Board Chair Robert Solow. This issue focus summarizes a panel presentation, featuring Frank Levy, Richard J. Murnane, Cecilia E. Rouse, and Ronald F. Ferguson, about current challenges in education and how MDRC’s research can help address them.

New Findings About the Effectiveness and Operation of Small Public High Schools of Choice in New York City

August, 2013

New data from a rigorous study confirm that New York City’s small public high schools, which have nonselective admissions and serve many disadvantaged students, have substantially improved rates of graduation with Regents diplomas. This report also describes what principals and teachers at these schools believe accounts for their success.

How Career Academies Can Build College and Career Exploration Programs

January, 2013

MDRC and Bloom Associates developed and piloted a program to help Career Academies, a popular high school reform, build college and career exploration programs for their students. This report presents lessons learned from its implementation in 18 academies in California, Florida, and Georgia.

January, 2012

A rigorous study that takes advantage of lottery-like features in New York City’s high school admissions process demonstrates that new small public high schools that are open to students of all academic backgrounds have substantial impacts on rates of graduation with Regents diplomas for every disadvantaged subgroup of students that was examined.

How New York City’s New Small Schools Are Boosting Student Achievement and Graduation Rates

June, 2010

Taking advantage of lottery-like features in New York City’s high school admissions process, this study provides rigorous evidence that new small public high schools are narrowing the educational attainment gap and markedly improve graduation prospects, particularly for disadvantaged students.

High Schools and Their Characteristics, 2002-2008

February, 2010

This report examines the sweeping transformation of New York City’s public high school system — the nation’s largest — during the first decade of the twenty-first century, when nearly 200 new small high schools were created. Two companion reports focus on the role of intermediaries in this reform effort and provide case studies of six schools.

Career Academies Combine Academic Rigor and Workplace Relevance

August, 2008

This “snapshot,” published by the National High School Center, takes a close look at implementation of the Career Academy model in one high school in Oakland, California.

August, 2008

This issue brief, published by the National High School Center, highlights lessons from selected policies and programs designed to improve students’ preparation for life after high school.

June, 2008

Eight-year findings on Career Academies — a popular high school reform that combines academics with career development opportunities — show that the programs produced sustained employment and earnings gains, particularly among young men. Career Academy participants were also more likely to be living independently with children and a spouse or a partner.

January, 2007

MDRC’s research on Career Academies, First Things First, Project GRAD, and Talent Development suggests that the twin pillars of high school reform are structural changes to improve personalization and instructional improvement.

The Effects of Four Popular Improvement Programs

November, 2006

This research brief, published by the National High School Center, draws on findings from four studies by MDRC that shed light on both the nature of the problems found in low-performing high schools and on the effectiveness of promising interventions that attempt to address those problems.

March, 2004

Career Academies produced substantial and sustained improvements in earnings of young men after high school, without limiting opportunities to attend college.

A Resource Directory for Career Academies

January, 2002

One of the most widely adopted school reform approaches in the nation, the Career Academies movement has spread to more than 3,000 schools and school districts — and, in the process, has spawned a rich network of information outlets and resources aimed at the communities of Career Academy adherents.

Project Overview

The transition from high school into postsecondary education and a career has become particularly challenging given today’s complex, fast-moving, and highly technological economy.

Project Overview

The New York City public school system is the largest in the United States, with over 1,200 schools and more than 1.1 million students enrolled each year. For more than a decade, it has also been the site of an unprecedented investment in high school reform.

Project Overview

Career Academies were first developed some 35 years ago with the aim of restructuring large high schools into small learning communities and creating better pathways from high school to further education and the workplace. Since then, the Career Academy approach has taken root in an estimated 8,000 high schools across the country.