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 high school options and student enrollment over time. The analyses identify patterns and trends among schools for 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. The Academy for Education Development has also published case studies of six new small schools that assess the degree to which they implemented best school and classroom practices.