Tag Archives: MDRC

MDRC report: New York City’s small schools raise graduation rates for disadvantaged students

19 Oct

The Wisconsin Department of Education has a succinct description of what makes a successful school in Characteristics of Successful Schools Chpt 1 – Overview:

Successful Schools Have a Vision That:

  1. is accompanied by other strategic planning. Strategic planning is a data-driven process that guides decision making, as well as program implementation components such as:
    • goal statements
    • means to accomplish the goals
    • timelines
  2. links education standards to teacher expectations and student performance
  3. fosters district wide expectations and experiences that result in all students mastering challenging standards at proficient or above levels
  4. engages the entire learning community to take responsibility for all students’ learning
  5. includes carefully defined terms that are known and supported by all constituents
  6. is developed with representation from a wide variety of publics and demographic groups
  7. drives resource allocation in the learning as well as the broader community
  8. allows the societal, academic, and organizational components of education to operate in a seamless manner
  9. articulates the learning community’s commitment to both excellence and equity in the organization
  10. embraces the dual mission of creating in each student solid and rigorous academic achievement and civic caring and responsibility


MDRC, with a grant from the Gates Foundation, has been studying small schools in New York City for the past several years. Disadvantaged students are enabled in the small school setting, according to their findings.

Patricia Willens of NPR reported in the story, New Research Suggests Small High Schools May Help After All:

Findings from a new long-term study of small high schools in New York City show the approach may not only boost a student’s chances of enrolling in college but also cost less per graduate.

The city began an intensive push to create smaller learning communities in its high schools in 2002. That year, the city’s education department rolled out a districtwide lottery system for high school admission.

The study, by the research group MDRC, compares the academic outcomes of students in the small schools with a control group of students who sought admission, lost a lottery, and enrolled in other New York City high schools.

At the same time, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg started creating hundreds of high schools enrolling about 100 students per grade — enrollments much smaller than the comprehensive high schools that had been the norm for decades.

These small schools shared some key characteristics: academic rigor, personalized relationships with teachers, and real-world relevance to the classroom lessons. Another key: outside funding, including from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corp. of New York, and the Open Society Foundations. (Those three philanthropies are also supporters of NPR.)

The proportion of students who graduated from these high schools in four years and enrolled the next year in a post-secondary institution was 8.4 percentage points higher than in the control group, 49 percent, the MDRC study finds. In particular, the researchers found that the schools boosted college enrollment for black males by 11.3 percentage points, a 36 percent increase relative to their control group counterparts.

The small high schools included in the multiyear study also cost less per graduate. Costs were roughly 14 percent to 16 percent lower, the study said, largely because students graduated in four years rather than staying for a fifth year of high school….                           http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/10/17/356661018/new-research-suggests-small-high-schools-may-help-after-all

Here is the press release from MDRC:

New Findings Show New York City’s Small High Schools Boost College Enrollment Rates Among Disadvantaged Students

Higher High School Graduation Rates Translate into College Enrollment; College-Going by Black Males Up by 36 Percent


(New York, October 16, 2014) — MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research firm, released new findings today from its rigorous multiyear study of small public high schools in New York City. The findings confirm that these schools, which serve mostly disadvantaged students of color, not only raise graduation rates by 9.4 percentage points, but they boost college enrollment by 8.4 percentage points. In addition, the small high schools achieve these gains at a lower cost per graduate than that of the high schools attended by students who had applied to these schools but were randomly assigned to other public high schools when small school slots were full.

Nearly all of the increase in high school graduation rates can be attributed to a rise in Regents diplomas attained, and the effects are seen in virtually every student group attending these schools, including male and female students of color, students with below grade level eighth-grade proficiency scores in math and reading, low-income students, and students in special education. The effects on postsecondary enrollment are seen for most student subgroups, including low-income students and students of color. For example, the schools boosted college enrollment by 11.3 percentage points for black males, a 36 percent increase relative to their control group counterparts.

“Our study confirms that New York City’s small public high schools are making a marked difference for a wide range of disadvantaged students, not only helping more of them to graduate with Regents diplomas but equipping them to actually take the next critical step into college,” said Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC.  “What is truly remarkable, though, about these results is that a high school reform has had a measurable effect on college-going and it has done so at scale — across scores of public high schools.”

More Detail on the Study and the Findings

The creation of small schools by the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) began in the 1990s. In 2002, the NYCDOE instituted a district-wide high school admissions process that emphasized student choice and began establishing over 100 new academically nonselective small public schools. Each enrolling approximately 100 students per grade in grades 9 through 12, these schools were created to serve some of the district’s most disadvantaged students. Besides being small, they emphasize academic rigor, personalized relationships among strong teachers and students, and real-world relevance of learning. MDRC’s study takes advantage of the lottery-like features in New York City’s high school admissions process that kick in when schools have more applicants than seats available to compare over time the academic outcomes of students who won their first lottery and enrolled in the small schools with those who sought admission, lost a lottery, and enrolled in other New York City high schools.

Previous reports by MDRC (in 2010, 2012, and 2013) showed marked increases in graduation rates for the cohorts of students who entered these small high schools in 2005, 2006, and 2007. This new report updates those findings with results from a fourth cohort of students who entered ninth grade in the fall of 2008. For the first time, the study also follows students into postsecondary education. A separate working paper contains a cost analysis. The study’s new findings include:

  • For all four cohorts of students, small high schools in New York City markedly increased high school graduation rates for large numbers of disadvantaged students of color, even as graduation rates were rising at other New York City high schools. For the full sample, students at small high schools have a graduation rate of 71.6 percent, compared with 62.2 percent for students in the control situation. The higher graduation rate was driven by students earning Regents diplomas. These effects were seen among nearly all subgroups of students who attended the small high schools.
  • Attending a small high school increased the percentage of students who graduated from high school in four years and enrolled the next year in a postsecondary institution by 8.4 percentage points (to 49.0 percent). Most subgroups, including black males, black females, and students eligible for free/reduced-price lunch, experienced these effects. Small high schools modestly increased enrollment rates in postsecondary schools at every selectivity level, including competitive and very competitive schools, as defined by Barron’s ratings.
  • The small high schools achieved these gains at a lower cost per graduate than that of the high schools attended by their control group counterparts — roughly 14 percent to 16 percent lower. This is in large part because more students successfully graduate from small high schools and fewer need to attend an expensive fifth year of high school.

What Are Small Schools of Choice?

Small schools of choice (SSCs) — a term coined by the researchers to emphasize the fact that these nonselective schools are open to and chosen by students of all academic levels — are more than just small. They were developed and approved through a competitive proposal process administered by the New York City Department of Education and designed to stimulate innovative ideas for new schools by a range of stakeholders and institutions, from educators to school reform organizations, led in part by New Visions for Public Schools and including the Urban Assembly, the Institute for Student Achievement, the College Board, and others. The resulting schools emphasize academic rigor; strong, sustained relationships between students and faculty; and community partnerships to offer relevant learning opportunities outside the classroom. Each SSC also received start-up funding as well as assistance and policy support from the district and other key players to facilitate leadership development, hiring, and implementation. These reform efforts were supported by a consortium of funders, led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Open Society Foundations, and were implemented in collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. Prior research by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools suggests that teachers and principals at SSCs strongly believe that academic rigor and personal relationships with students contribute to the effectiveness of their schools.

How Was the Study Conducted?

As noted above, the study takes advantage of lottery-like features in New York City’s high school admissions process. Each year, NYC eighth-graders are required to select in rank order of priority up to 12 high schools that they want to attend; when an SSC has more applicants than spaces, the district’s High School Application Processing System uses a randomized process to break ties and assign students to the SSC or to another school in the district from each student’s list of preferences. This analysis examines lotteries that occurred in 84 of the 123 SSCs and provides the basis for an unusually large and rigorous study of the effects of enrolling in SSCs on students’ academic achievement; the study tracks more than 12,000 students in SSCs and other high schools in New York City. The study does not compare the SSCs to the large, failing high schools they replaced but, rather, to the other public high schools operating in the reform-rich atmosphere in New York City.

MDRC’s study is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. All publications from the study, including the new one, Headed to College: The Effects of New York City’s Small High Schools of Choice on Postsecondary Enrollment by Rebecca Unterman, are available on MDRC’s website.

Contact: John Hutchins, Communications Director, 212-340-8604, john.hutchins@mdrc.org, or Farhana Hossain, 212-340-4505, farhana.hossain@mdrc.org.                                                                                               http://www.mdrc.org/news/press-release/new-findings-show-new-york-city-s-small-high-schools-boost-college-enrollment

There are pros and cons to attending a small school.

Kristen Bevilacqua wrote about Pros and Cons of Small High Schools:


Class sizes are usually smaller at small high schools. With fewer students in a class, students get more personal attention from their teachers. Shy students may feel more comfortable participating and asking questions and in more intimate class settings.

Fewer students equal fewer cliques. The atmosphere at small schools encourages close friendships since classmates get to know each other better than they would with thousands of peers in the same building. There is no opportunity to be anonymous, so students are more accountable to themselves. I knew the name of every student in my graduating class and the classes below me when I graduated from high school.


Large high schools tend to have a more diverse student body. While smaller schools may foster an atmosphere for close friendships, it is less likely that their students will be exposed to as many different ethnicities and cultures as their large school counterparts.

With diversity comes differences. A small and less diverse school does not introduce students to various and opposing opinions. For students’ budding minds, the exploration of all ideas is important for their development and self-discovery.

Although there may be less competition for Editor of the school newspaper or yearbook, the choices for extra curricular activities are more limited at a small high school. For example, my high school did not have any sports teams. If one of my classmates would have liked to play competitive sports, she would have had to join a league or group not affiliated with our school – not as convenient as playing on your school team.

The facilities can also be limited as a small school. They may not have a gymnasium, or functioning cafeteria; if there is a science lab it is probably shared by all grades studying different sciences…..                     http://www.educationspace360.com/index.php/pros-and-cons-of-small-high-schools-3-14879/

The MDRC study emphasizes there should be no one size fits all in education.

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MDRC study: ‘Success for All’ shows promise

1 Nov

Moi wrote in Research papers: Student Motivation: An Overlooked Piece of School Reform:
Moi often says education is a partnership between the student, the teacher(s) and parent(s). All parties in the partnership must share the load. The student has to arrive at school ready to learn. The parent has to set boundaries, encourage, and provide support. Teachers must be knowledgeable in their subject area and proficient in transmitting that knowledge to students. All must participate and fulfill their role in the education process. A series of papers about student motivation by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) follows the Council on Foreign Relations report by Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein. In Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein report about American Education, moi said
The Council on Foreign Relations has issued the report, U.S. Education Reform and National Security. The chairs for the report are Joel I. Klein, News Corporation and Condoleezza Rice, Stanford University. Moi opined about the state of education in U.S. education failure: Running out of excuses https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/u-s-education-failure-running-out-of-excuses/ Education tends to be populated by idealists and dreamers who are true believers and who think of what is possible. Otherwise, why would one look at children in second grade and think one of those children could win the Nobel Prize or be president? Maybe, that is why education as a discipline is so prone to fads and the constant quest for the “Holy Grail” or the next, next magic bullet. There is no one answer, there is what works for a particular population of kids

Sarah D. Sparks wrote in the Education Week article, v:

One of the biggest early bets in the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation prShows Promise in First i3 Evaluationogram seems to be paying off: Success for All, a literacy-related, whole-school improvement model, shows signs of changing teaching practice and boosting students’ early-literacy skills after a year in schools.
The findings come from a new study by the New York City-based research group MDRC, the first of three installments in an ongoing $6.7 million evaluation of Success for All, a popular school-improvement model used in 1,000 schools representing 300,000 students nationwide. The program, which includes schoolwide curriculum, tutors, bimonthly student assessments, and teacher training, received $49.3 million from the federal i3 program in 2009 to expand its school improvement model and increase training for teachers and staff.
A year after 19 K-5 and K-6 schools in four states were randomly selected to launch the program in the 2011-12 school year, MDRC researchers found that kindergartners in those schools significantly outperformed demographically similar peers in a control group of 18 schools in a standardized test of phonics, the Woodcock-Johnson Word Attack. Success for All students got a boost roughly equal to 12 percent of the average annual growth for a kindergartner. Moreover, the same benefits were found for poor and minority students.
Painting a Picture of Teacher Practice
In the classroom, teachers at Success for All schools differed from those in the control-group schools in a number of ways. They were more likely, for example, to group and regroup students by ability for reading lessons—even across grades.
Those benefits are in line with the learning gains found in previous studies of Success for All, which has been studied extensively since its founding in 1987, but the MDRC study “goes into more depth in relating implementation to outcomes than any study that’s come before,” said Robert E. Slavin, the chairman of the Success for All Foundation and the director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “It’s outstanding in giving a more detailed picture of what’s actually happening in the schools.”
Compared with teachers in schools that did not implement the program, researchers found that the teachers in the Success for All schools had more, and more varied, training in reading instruction. They later proved more likely to focus on comprehension, even in kindergarten, than teachers in control schools, and were also more likely to use cooperative-learning strategies. Also, following the Success for All design, teachers in those schools were more likely to group and regroup students across multiple grades based on their reading skills, to provide more focused instruction.
“Some of the cooperative learning that students undertake—like turning to your neighbor and telling them something about the text—are among the ways comprehension can get reinforced even with very young children,” noted Janet C. Quint, an MDRC senior research associate and the study director for the evaluation project…
The evaluation report also details the challenge of implementing the whole-school program, which requires strictly scripted and paced lessons and regular assessments and regrouping of students. Surveys of teachers during the first year of implementation found many wanted clearer guidance on how to structure lessons, for example…
Teachers and administrators also repeated long-held concerns about balancing the many moving parts of SFA’s comprehensive-school-reform model, with many schools reporting they did not have sufficient staff to provide tutors for all students who needed them or put in place the school committees needed to implement the program’s whole-schools reforms. Similar complaints about comprehensive school reform programs stymied previous federal efforts to expand such programs in the late 1990s.
The complexity of the program may partly explain why Success For All has not been keeping pace with its scale-up targets under i3: The group initially proposed expanding its whole-school program to 1,100 schools in five years, 550 of which would receive startup support via the i3 grant. (Central Elementary was one of these.) Now, Mr. Slavin said Success for All will be lucky to recruit half that many new schools for expansion during the duration of the i3 grant, and all, not half, of them will receive the startup money.
“The economy has been so awful, schools have been struggling just to keep their staff, not to mention taking on any kind of reform program,” Mr. Slavin said. “We expected to have a real rush of schools interested in signing up, particularly with the i3 incentives, but … that hasn’t happened. We’ve had to do some real marketing.”
Still, researchers will continue to study students in the first group of expansion schools as they progress through elementary school. Two additional studies will look more broadly at whole-school changes, as well as longitudinal progress for 2nd graders and older students. These will also include comprehension skills, which Ms. Quint said are more difficult to test in early grades…http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/10/30/11successforall.h33.html?tkn=PQZFBWe7vcoucd7HsmaTAtuDHLlwCnkyz2So&cmp=clp-edweek

Here is the press release:

The Success for All Model of School Reform
Early Findings from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Scale-Up
10/2013 | Janet Quint, Rekha Balu, Micah DeLaurentis, Shelley Rappaport, Thomas J. Smith, Pei Zhu
First implemented in 1987, the Success for All (SFA) school reform model combines three basic elements:
• Reading instruction that is characterized by an emphasis on phonics for beginning readers and comprehension for students at all levels, a highly structured curriculum, an emphasis on cooperative learning, across-grade ability grouping and periodic regrouping, frequent assessments, and tutoring for students who need extra help
• Whole-school improvement components that address noninstructional issues
• Strategies to secure teacher buy-in, provide school personnel with initial and ongoing training, and foster shared school leadership
Success for All was selected to receive a five-year scale-up grant under the U.S. Department of Education’s first Investing in Innovation (i3) competition. This report, the first of three, examines the program’s implementation and impacts in 2011-2012, the first year of operation, at 37 kindergarten through grades 5 and 6 (K-5 and K-6) schools in five school districts that agreed to be part of the scale-up evaluation: 19 “program group” schools were randomly selected to operate SFA, and 18 “control group” schools did not receive the intervention. Program and control group schools were very similar at the start of the study. The analysis compares the experiences of school staff as well as the reading performance of a cohort of kindergarten students who remained in SFA schools throughout the year (and therefore received the maximum “dosage” of the program) with those of their counterparts in the control group schools.
Key Findings

• While teachers in the SFA schools initially expressed concerns about implementing this new, complex, and demanding initiative, by the end of the first year, many teachers were beginning to feel more comfortable with the program.
• Almost all the program group schools had reached a satisfactory level of early implementation as determined by the Success for All Foundation, the nonprofit organization that provides materials, training, and support to schools operating the reform. Yet there was also ample room for schools to implement additional program elements and to refine the elements that they had put in place.
• Reading instruction in the two sets of schools was found to differ in key ways.
• Kindergartners in the SFA schools scored significantly higher than their control group counterparts on one of two standardized measures of early reading. The impact on this measure seems to be robust across a range of demographic and socioeconomic subgroups, as well as across students with different levels of literacy skills at baseline.
Subsequent reports will examine the reading skills of these students as they progress through first and second grades and will also measure the reading skills of students in the upper elementary grades.
Full Report http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/The_Success_for_All_Model_FR_0.pdf
Executive Summary http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/The_Success_for_All_Model_ES_0.pdf

The Success for All Foundation describes the Success for All program.

In FAQs the Success for All Foundation answers some basic questions:

Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is Success for All?

A. The Success for All whole-school improvement model weaves together four essential strategies to help you ensure the success of your students:

Leadership for Continuous Improvement: School leaders, teachers, and other school staff work in collaboration to set quarterly goals, select leverage points for improvement, measure progress, and celebrate success. An online data-management system makes data accessible to all.

Schoolwide Support and Intervention Tools: Proven strategies focus on attendance, parental involvement, positive school culture, family needs, health issues, and individual student support and intervention to make sure that students are in school and ready to learn.

Powerful Instruction: All instruction in Success for All is built around a cooperative-learning framework that engages students in rich discussion and motivating challenges every day. Detailed lesson resources for reading make planning easy and include rich media supports to develop vocabulary, background knowledge, fluency, and discussion skills. Computer-assisted tutoring tools provide individualization and extra time.

Professional Development and Coaching: Implementation is supported by extensive job-embedded professional development and coaching that enables teachers and school leaders to make the most of the research-proven approach.

Q. How does it work?

A. Success for All makes reading the cornerstone of the curriculum. For children to succeed in school, they must be reading on grade level by the end of the third grade and keep building reading skills through secondary school. They also need effective teachers, so SFA includes intensive professional development, ongoing coaching support, and data tools to give teachers feedback on how students are learning and where they need additional instruction or extra help. SFA involves the whole community in implementing effective instruction that is based on the best research on what works. Success for All makes learning fun and engaging for kids and helps teachers become knowledgeable, skilled instructional leaders.

Q. How is SFA different from everything else out there?

A. Success for All is unique in so many ways!
• Cooperative learning is used all the time. Students work together productively to learn and take responsibility for one another.
• Technology is deeply embedded in daily teaching and learning.
• Students are highly motivated, engaged, noisy, and on task.
• The pace of instruction is fast, and the kids keep up with it.
• Every minute of teaching is well planned, exciting, and engaging.
• Learning is constantly monitored, and problems are solved the right way.
• Teachers teach the whole child. Social and emotional learning, behavior, and cooperation are as important as academics.
• Professional development is top notch and going on every day. Teachers know their craft and apply it with intelligence, adapting it to their students’ needs.
• Everyone is involved in support of student success—teachers, parents, community members, and the kids themselves.
• A facilitator from the school’s own faculty works with teachers every day to help every teacher succeed and grow in skill and sophistication.
• There is a strong research base in every component of SFA and in the program as a whole.

Q. I’ve heard Success for All is expensive. What’s the story?

A. The average cost of Success for All for a school receiving our $50,000 i3 grant opportunity is just $104 per child, per year—or just 60 cents a day. And costs are even lower after the first three years of implementation. Title I funds, including funds from SES waivers, professional-development budgets, and school-improvement grants, can all be used to fund Success for All. Research documents that cost savings from reductions in special-education services and grade repetition more than pay for ALL the costs of Success for All within a five-year period…. http://www.successforall.org/About-Us/FAQs/

Like, unhappy families, failing schools are probably failing in their own way.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Chapter 1, first line
Russian mystic & novelist (1828 – 1910)

It seems everything old becomes new once again, although a relentless focus on the basics never went out of style.

Good Schools really are relentless about the basics.

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