Study Finds New York City's Small High School Reform "Lifted All Boats"

     A new study by NYU Wagner professors Leanna Stiefel and Amy Ellen Schwartz finds that small urban high schools produced better results than their larger counterparts, and “lifted all boats” across all types of schools, whether large or small, old or new.

     The study, examining the impact of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s much-debated reform program, under which hundreds of schools were created in less than a decade, uses individual student data on four cohorts of NYC high school students. It estimates effects that schools had on student academic outcomes, such as graduation rates and Regents scores.

     The article, entitled “Does Small High School Reform Lift Urban Districts: Evidence From New York,” investigates whether the improved academic outcomes seen in the smaller high schools were accomplished at the price of losses elsewhere in the New York City school system, the nation's largest.

      Apparently not, the findings show.

      “Our results suggest that the introduction of small schools improved outcomes for students in all types of schools: large, small, continuously operating, and new. School reform lifted all boats,” the authors write.

     The article appears in the current issue of the journal Educational Researcher (April, 2015).

     Stiefel (lead author) is a professor of economics and education policy, while Schwartz teaches public policy, education, and economics; the two professors also lead the Institute for Education and Social Policy (IESP), a Wagner-Steinhardt research center. Matthew Wiswall, an assistant professor economics at W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, co-authored the study with them.