Measuring School Efficiency: Lessons from Economics, Implications for Practice
High school reform is currently at the top of the education policy making agenda after years of stagnant achievement and persistent racial and income test score gaps. Although a number of reforms offer some promise of improving U.S. high schools, small schools have emerged as the favored reform model, especially in urban areas, garnering substantial financial investments from both the private and public sectors. In the decade following 1993, the number of high schools in New York City nearly doubled, as new "small" schools opened and large high schools were reorganized into smaller learning communities. The promise of small schools to improve academic engagement, school culture, and, ultimately, student performance has drawn many supporters. However, educators, policy makers, and researchers have raised concerns about the unintended consequences of these new small schools and the possibility that students "left behind" in large, established high schools are incurring negative impacts.
Using 10 years (1993-2003) of data on New York City high schools, we examine the potential systemic effects of small schools that have been identified by critics and researchers.