Examines the effects of New York City’s small schools of choice (SSCs) effect on postsecondary enrollment, presented as a follow up to previous studies on this multi-year initiative.

“Since 2010, MDRC has released three research reports on the New York City Department of Education’s multiyear initiative to create small public high schools that are open to any student who wants to attend. This brief adds evidence from a fourth cohort on high school graduation and presents MDRC’s first results with respect to these schools’ effects on postsecondary enrollment. MDRC’s rigorous assessment has demonstrated that these schools have markedly increased graduation rates for disadvantaged students of color, many of whom start high school below grade level. Yet it is no longer enough to improve high school graduation rates. In an economy that is increasingly characterized by technological change and globalization, it is widely accepted that enrollment and success in postsecondary education is necessary for young people to be prepared for the world of work” (p.1).

“This policy brief updates MDRC’s research on SSCs by (1) updating high school graduation effects with an additional (fourth) student cohort and (2) following four student cohorts into postsecondary education. On the second point, it addresses the following questions:

•              What is the effect of attending an SSC on students’ rates of enrollment in postsecondary education?

•              To what extent does this effect differ for postsecondary institutions of varying selectivity?

•              To what extent does this effect differ by students’ background characteristics, such as their race, income, or prior academic achievement?

•              What is the effect of attending an SSC on students’ persistence over time in the pursuit of a postsecondary degree?” (p.2).


(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full publication title: Headed to College: The Effects of New York City’s Small High Schools of Choice on Postsecondary Enrollment

Major Findings & Recommendations

“On average, attending an SSC increased on-time high school graduation rates for the four student cohorts in the present analysis by 9.4 percentage points, an effect that is equivalent in magnitude to roughly 44 percent of the gap in graduation rates between white students and students of color in New York City during the same period. For these student cohorts, attending an SSC also increased the probability of graduating from high school in four years and attending a postsecondary education program the following year by 8.4 percentage points. It is rare to find such large positive effects for a rigorously evaluated large-scale education reform and rarer still to see such effects continue into college. Hence, the present findings are unusually promising. Remarkably, SSCs achieve these gains for enrollees at a lower average total cost per graduate than that for their control group counterparts — roughly 14 percent to 16 percent lower. Interestingly, both SSC enrollees and control group enrollees attend high schools that turn out to have per-pupil costs somewhat higher than those of the average New York City high school and substantially higher than those of the largest high schools, which have significant economies of scale. Yet the per-pupil costs for the specific high schools that SSC enrollees and their control group counterparts attended are roughly similar. And, because more SSC students successfully graduate and fewer require an expensive fifth year of high school, the cost per graduate is significantly lower for SSC students than for their control group counterparts. These findings are consistent regardless of the approach used to estimate teacher costs, student composition, facility usage, start-up costs, or partner contributions to the schools. Still, there is more work to be done. Roughly 30 percent of target SSC enrollees do not graduate from high school on time and, even among those who do, roughly 31 percent do not go on to postsecondary education. In addition, the very small postsecondary effects reported for students who enter high school performing far below grade level suggest that additional investment will be required to help these students obtain the skills they need to make at least some form of postsecondary education a viable option, a transition that will become increasingly important in the twenty-first-century labor market” (p.8-9). (Abstractor: Author)