The impact analysis focuses on the "small schools of choice," new, small, unscreened high schools. The path-breaking analytic approach used in the impact study capitalizes on random elements of the NYCDOE’s centralized high school admissions process. Each lottery for a small school of choice is a naturally-occurring experiment, which, after some adjustments, makes it possible to produce valid estimates of the effects of enrollment in small schools of choice on student academic outcomes. The impact study will be the most rigorous evaluation to date on the effectiveness of small schools.
The impact study follows four cohorts of students — those entering high school in the fall of 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. The primary sources of data for the analyses are High School Application Processing System (HSAPS) data and school records, which were obtained from the NYCDOE.
The MDRC school characteristics study uses extant data from the U.S. Department of Education, New York State Report Card, and NYCDOE along with aggregate HSAPS and student records data in a school-level database to analyze changes in the high school options and student enrollment over time. The analyses identify patterns and trends for schools on a number of instruction-related, demographic, and performance-based characteristics by school type as defined by size and selectivity.
A companion qualitative study by Policy Studies Associates examined the roles that intermediaries played in designing and implementing new small schools. Case studies of six new small schools, assessing the degree to which schools implemented best school and classroom practices, was published by The Academy for Education Development.
Over the next four years, MDRC is conducting an expanded set of research activities that will:
- Address the how and why questions raised by the current report thereby amplifying its usefulness to the field, and
- Provide additional evidence about the overall effects of small schools of choice in New York City.
To address these objectives, we will conduct three types of research that will help to:
- Identify the locus of SSC impacts. We will conduct an integrated series of exploratory quantitative and qualitative analyses of what it is about SSCs in New York City (their leadership, organization, teaching staff, students, and/or available resources) that make them so effective for disadvantaged students.
- Understand long-term SSC effects on student achievement. We will conduct statistical analyses of (1) SSC effects on graduation rates for later student cohorts and at five and six years after students enter high school, and (2) the extent to which high school graduation attainment and college-readiness effects translate into gains in future educational outcomes (postsecondary education enrollment, persistence, and completion) and future economic outcomes (employment and earnings).
- Understand whether SSC effects persist as the recent school reforms in New York City move toward steady state. We will conduct quantitative analyses of the extent to which SSC effects persist as the larger school system of which they are a part evolves.