By Rich Bockmann
Students who attend the small high schools opened by the Bloomberg administration — such as the East-West School of International Studies in Flushing and the High School of Applied Communication at LaGuardia Community College — are more likely to make it through the first year of college than their peers at larger high schools, a new study shows.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Duke University released a first-of-its-kind study last week taking a look at 150 schools, including 15 in Queens, the city opened between 2002 and 2008.
Preference for a seat at the non-selective schools is given to students who show interest by attending an information session, and from that pool the city Department of Education uses a lottery to decide who gets a seat in one of the smaller schools, where enrollments are usually about 100 students per grade.
Researchers were able to compare students who ranked one of the new schools as their first choice, but through the lottery ended up at a traditional high school with those who got a spot at one of the smaller institutions and found that the latter were 7 percent more likely to go to college.
“Small schools cause students to clear CUNY remediation requirements in writing or reading,” the researchers wrote. “The early evidence suggests that students are more likely to persist in college, as measured by attempting at least two academic semesters.”
Bloomberg created many of the schools with help from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which took the position that smaller schools offer the opportunity for teachers and administrators to engage students more closely, but they are not without their flaws.
Because funding is tied to enrollment, small schools offer fewer programs such as advanced placement classes and extracurricular activities than larger ones do, and many are co-located with traditional schools that struggle to educate black and Hispanic students.
The city Panel for Educational Policy was scheduled to vote this week on proposals to create small high schools at Martin Van Buren in Bellerose, Long Island City HS, the Campus Magnet complex in Cambria Heights and JHS 226 in South Ozone Park — plans that have been met with near-ubiquitous opposition from those schools’ communities.
The study found that students who went to one of the small high schools entered ninth-grade with below-average scores on state tests, but recorded a boost in performance on Regents exams and earned more credits each year compared to their peers.
English-language learners and special education students were not included in the study due to the way they were placed into the small schools over time, and the jury is still out on what effect the closer environments have on college graduation.
“As the cohorts in our study age, it will be possible to study longer-term measures of college persistence and college graduation,” researchers wrote.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.