Andy Wolf wrote a good column [Friday] on how the students accepted at the small schools compared to the large are very different, putting in question the administration’s claims of improving graduation rates by closing down the large schools and replacing them with small ones. He credits these findings to a recent Eduwonkette column and an earlier one on the UFT blog by
In November 2005 I presented [a report] to the PEP and the UPA here: http://www.classsiz
Many of my observations were based on a report by Policy Studies Associates completed in March 2005, suppressed for many months by New Visions, and then leaked to the NY Times in Nov. 2005 – which had many of the same findings and facts and more, based upon background student data gotten directly from DOE.
The PSA report examined not just the new schools placed in Evander but throughout the
“By gaining access to student records, the analysis substantiates what DOE officials have long denied – that these schools recruit students with better scores, attendance, and overall records than the population from which they are drawn. See for example the recent NYC Partnership report -- which misleadingly compares NCHS students to the average student citywide.
As the Policy Studies report points out, "These citywide comparisons are of only limited usefulness, since [this] initiative is intended to improve education opportunities and outcomes for students who might otherwise attend some of the city's most troubled high schools." Thus their evaluation properly compares the earlier records of students at the new small schools to those attending neighboring or host comprehensive high schools.
The students at the small schools had eighth grade math and reading scores significantly higher than their peers in the comparison schools; and 97% of them had been promoted in the prior year, compared with only 59% of the students at the comparison schools. They had better attendance records (91% compared to 81%), and were less likely to have been suspended. They were much less likely to need special education services. Only six percent of
Indeed, teachers at the new small schools praised their principals for "recruiting more high-performing students".
Why were the new small schools more successful at keeping their students engaged? Students reported that their teachers were able to know them well, give them individualized instruction and help, and provide lots of attention in and out of class. As one pointed out, "the teachers I have had at other schools never knew me." While class sizes at the larger high schools average 30 students or more, class sizes at most of the new small schools were between 13 and 20 students, as pointed out by the first year evaluation. 9 The fact that these schools provided much smaller classes was noted by students themselves in surveys as their most valuable quality.10 As a result, “Teachers listen to you and get your opinion.” “In a normal high school, they don’t talk to you when you have a problem. They don’t care.” Another student said, “Slipping through the cracks? Not at this school!” Indeed, without smaller classes it's hard to see how these schools could succeed in their mission at all. …
As the class size in the small schools appear to be their most successful elements, without a plan to eventually provide smaller classes and more individualized instruction to all high school students, it is difficult to see how this will ever occur. “