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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Do new small schools in New York City enroll more advantaged students than the city's other schools ?

Check out this PDF executive summary http://www.annenberginstitute.org/pdf/JenningsPallasExSum.pdf.

-Angela


Introduction

Over the course of the past decade, the New York City public school system has sought to reform high school education. Central to this reform agenda has been a conscious effort to close or downsize large comprehensive high schools viewed as failing and, in their stead, to open new small high schools.

Supported by investments by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other philan- thropies, over 200 new small high schools have been founded in New York City. Conversely, since 2001-2002, twenty-seven large compre- hensive high schools have been closed or downsized, then reopened as campuses housing some of these new small schools.

The changes in the number and character of New York City public high schools over this period were accompanied by a new system of high school choice, which, in its current form, allows eighth-grade students to rank up to twelve high schools in order of preference. Then students participating in the choice process are assigned to a single high school.

These reforms created the possibility of a redis- tribution of students among New York City’s high schools. The choice process was designed to create opportunities for students to enroll in a more diverse set of schools across the city, rather than the default choice of a large com- prehensive high school in their neighborhood. Moreover, one of the goals behind the replace- ment of large comprehensive high schools with small schools was to lower the concentration of high-needs students enrolled in these large schools.

Nearly a decade later, it is now time to assess whether these intentions have been realized. Many large comprehensive high schools have been closed. Nearly two hundred small high schools have been opened. What do we now know about which high schools New York City’s eighth-graders enroll in? In this study, we examined the demographic characteristics of students entering the new small high schools in New York City and con- trasted them with the characteristics of students entering the large high schools that closed. We also determined whether these high school reforms altered how different types of students are distributed across schools.

We addressed four research questions in our study: • Are the students who enroll in new small
schools similar to students enrolling in other New York City high schools in their boroughs?

• Do the characteristics of students enrolling in new small high schools change over time?
• Are the students enrolling in new small schools sited in former large comprehensive high school buildings similar to the students who previously attended the large schools?
• Have New York City’s high school reforms altered the distribution of students across schools?
To address these questions, we examined a variety of characteristics of the students enter- ing New York City high schools from 1999- 2000 through 2008-2009: the percentage of
The new system of high school choice created the possibility of a redistribution of students among New York City’s high schools.

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Do New York City’s New Small Schools Enroll Students with Different Characteristics from Other NYC Schools?
entering students who were classified as profi- cient on the statewide eighth-grade English language arts assessment; the percentage of entering students who were classified as profi- cient on the statewide eighth-grade mathemat- ics assessment; the average percentage of days in the semester prior to entering a high school that incoming students attended school; the percentage of entering students who were clas- sified as over-age for their grade; the percent- age of entering students who were male; the percentage of entering students who were eligi- ble for free or reduced-price lunch; the per- centage of entering students who were classi- fied as English language learners (ELLs); the percentage of entering students who were clas- sified as entitled to full-time special education services, based on the presence of a disability (available from 1999-2000 through 2005- 2006); the percentage of entering students who were classified as entitled to part-time special education services (available from 1999-2000 through 2005-2006); and the percentage of entering students who were classified as enti- tled to full-time or part-time special education.

Findings

Are the students who enroll in new small schools similar to students enrolling in other New York City high schools in their boroughs?

Our results indicate that over the years 2002- 2003 through 2008-2009, new small high schools enrolled students who were similar to students enrolled in other high schools in their boroughs on some of the criteria we examined but who differed in some important respects.

Overall, new small schools operating between 2002-2003 and 2008-2009 did not enroll incoming students with better records of stan- dardized test performance than students enter- ing existing high schools. The rates of profi- ciency in English language arts are about the same, and students entering new small schools have worse performance on the statewide eighth-grade math test. The percentage of stu- dents eligible for free or reduced-price lunch who enrolled in new small high schools also exceeded the percentage for students enrolling in existing schools.
Conversely, the new small schools were signifi- cantly less likely to enroll full-time special edu- cation students for the years that we have data on that characteristic. New small schools enrolled a smaller proportion of male students than existing schools, and those new small schools serving both ELL and non-ELL stu- dents were less likely to enroll ELL students than other high schools.
Do the characteristics of students enrolling in new small high schools change over time?
We found two distinct trends in the character- istics of students enrolling in new small schools between 2002-2003 and 2008-2009. The stu- dents enrolling in new small schools in 2002- 2003 were in many respects similar to students enrolling in other New York City high schools, with the exception that they enrolled fewer male students than other schools. But in 2003- 2004 and 2004-2005, small schools enrolled a progressively more advantaged population, with higher concentrations of students profi- cient in reading and mathematics and students with better middle-school attendance records than the students entering other schools. Small schools also were less likely to enroll over-age, ELL, and special education students than were other schools in 2003-2004 and 2004-2005. After 2004-2005, the trend reversed, with small schools enrolling increasing numbers of academically challenging students. We inter- pret this as evidence that during the first wave of large high school closings, students who would have attended these large schools ini- tially did not attend the new small schools. During subsequent waves of phasing out large comprehensive high schools, academically chal- lenged students have increasingly enrolled in the new small high schools.
Are the students enrolling in new small schools sited in former large comprehensive high school buildings similar to the students who previously attended the large schools?
We found strong evidence that the new small high schools on the campuses of the large com- prehensive schools they replaced enrolled ninth-grade students who were much less dis- advantaged than the students who were previ- ously enrolled in the large comprehensive schools. The
students in the new small schools on the same campus as the large comprehensive schools they replaced were 9 to 10 percent- age points more likely to be proficient in reading and math; 15 percentage points less likely to be over-age for grade; had better prior attendance; and were substantially less likely to be male, ELL, or entitled to special education services.
As the new small schools have matured over time, they have retained their advantages over the large comprehensive schools they replaced.
The students enrolled in new small schools were, however, more likely to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, which may reflect differ- ences in the ways in which small and large schools collect the forms that establish eligibil- ity. As the new small schools have matured over time, they have retained their advantages over the large comprehensive schools they replaced.
Annenberg Institute for School Reform 3
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Do New York City’s New Small Schools Enroll Students with Different Characteristics from Other NYC Schools?
Have New York City’s high school reforms altered the distribution of students across schools?
We measured the amount of segregation of higher-achieving, male, free or reduced-price lunch, ELL, and special education eligible stu- dents by establishing what fraction of students in each group would need to switch schools to evenly distribute each type of student across schools. In 1999-2000 there was a moderate amount of segregation among students enter- ing New York City high schools, with the greatest segregation observed for eighth-grade math and reading proficiency and the least seg- regation found for the distribution of male and female students across high schools, both for New York City overall and within each of the five boroughs.
Although there are some increases or decreases over time in the segregation of students within boroughs for a particular student characteristic, for the most part students were distributed
The community response to our findings, pre- sented at a community forum sponsored by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform on September 23, 2009, emphasized the ways in which community members, including princi- pals, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders, experienced the pattern of school closings and openings.
Some participants drew attention to the process by which the New York City Depart- ment of Education (NYCDOE) closed large comprehensive schools. One recurring concern is that the closing of large schools affects the population of other large schools, particularly those nearby. Other participants suggested that how the NYCDOE handles the closing process and communicates information to the commu- nities served by large high schools influences where the students who previously would have been likely to attend a large comprehensive high school eventually enroll.
Other participants emphasized the distinctive challenges facing new small schools. Many par- ticipants stated that new small schools face challenges in serving ELL and special educa- tion students; they need additional resources and support from the NYCDOE to serve these students successfully. Others expressed concern that as new small schools become more strati- fied through the forces of the market, some small schools will increasingly resemble failing large schools.
Our recommendations speak to the importance of ongoing monitoring and assessment of the consequences of closing large schools and opening new small schools. We suggest that the population of high schools be viewed as
a system in which the fortunes of one school can influence what happens to other schools.
The closing of large schools affects the population of other large schools, particularly those nearby.
similarly across the new small schools and existing schools still operating after the period of expansion of
new small high schools and phasing out of large comprehensive high schools. The only notable departures from this pattern are an increase in student segregation by free or reduced-price lunch status in every borough over the past five years; a slight increase in gen- der segregation in the Bronx and Brooklyn, the boroughs responsible for most new small school foundings; and an increase in special education segregation in the Bronx.
Acknowledging that school foundings and closings have consequences for other schools can help policy-makers design policies and practices that have a better chance of providing all students with access to the educational serv- ices and opportunities they need in order to succeed.

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