Education is not one-size-fits-all. Most everybody in the schools conversation agrees on that. Parents certainly do, as the Education Post poll released last week shows. But there’s still lots of debate over the right ways to offer tailored options to families.
According to a story in RealClearEducation, there’s a new study out of New York City that presents strong evidence that when it comes to high schools, small schools is one option that works for many families.
The MDRC study is a multiyear look at New York City’s “more than 120 academically nonselective small public schools…created in 2002 to cater to the diverse needs of city students,” RCE’s Emmeline Zhao reports.
In a Q-and-A with MDRC President Gordon Berlin, he summarizes the key data takeaways:
The students enrolled in their small school of choice were 15 percent more likely to graduate within four years and 22 percent more likely to enroll in college—that’s despite the fact that 3 out of every 4 of these students were behind grade level when they entered the 9th grade.
Berlin also stresses the importance of looking at the data through the “one-size-does-not-fit-all” lens:
I think people need to pay attention to these results and realize the large high schools we created in another era shouldn’t be the sole strategy [emphasis added] for our urban high schools. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any of them, but I think students need to have a variety of choices, that smaller schools enable the changes where they’re small not just in size but in function, they’re academically rigorous, provide the support that students need to make it.
The conventional wisdom on the small-schools approach is that it didn’t work, which Zhao and Berlin touch on. The MDRC study suggests the results are more mixed…and that small is a size that can have a big impact as one way to meet the diverse needs of students in urban districts.