Webinar: The Implications of New Findings on NYC’s Small High Schools Initiative


In early April, the Alliance for Excellent Education and MDRC cohosted a webinar, “Scaling and Sustaining Positive Effects of the New York Small High Schools Initiative,” which is now available for free download. Moderated by Governor Bob Wise, President of the Alliance for Excellent Education, the webinar included the following panelists:

  • Gordon Berlin, President, MDRC
  • Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University
  • Robert L. Hughes, President, New Visions for Public Schools
  • James H. Shelton III, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education
  • Adam Tucker, Senior Project Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

States and districts face enormous challenges in designing and executing effective strategies to raise the performance of urban high schools serving large numbers of students who are far behind grade level as entering ninth-graders. Beginning in 2002, New York City closed more than 20 large failing high schools and opened more than 200 new small high schools. At the same time, the city implemented a centralized high school admissions process that assigns over 90 percent of the roughly 80,000 incoming ninth-graders each year based upon their school preferences.Taking advantage of lottery-like features in New York City’s high school admissions process, MDRC’s ongoing study of small, academically nonselective high schools provides rigorous evidence that they boost rates of graduation for every disadvantaged subgroup of students that was examined. In addition, the small high schools show positive impacts on five-year graduation rates and on a measure of college readiness.

This webinar, which was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, focuses on lessons learned from the New York City small high schools of choice initiative that can help districts and states create sustainable strategies to markedly improve the graduation rates and trajectories of large numbers of traditionally underserved students.