Over the last decade, the New York City public school system has sought to reform high school education by closing or downsizing large, failing high schools and opening new small high schools in their stead. This report explores whether these reforms altered the distribution of student characteristics across schools by comparing the demographic characteristics of students entering the new small high schools with those of students entering the large high schools that closed and with high schools across the New York City system.
The authors found little evidence of a fundamental redistribution throughout the system, but their data indicated that new small high schools located on the campuses of the large comprehensive schools they replaced enrolled much less disadvantaged ninth-graders than those who were previously enrolled in the now-closed large comprehensive schools. The authors recommend that the New York City Department of Education remain vigilant when opening and closing new schools, keeping in mind that the fortunes of one school can influence what happens to other schools.
Prepared by Jennifer L. Jennings, assistant professor of sociology at New York University, and Aaron M. Pallas, professor of sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, in collaboration with Annenberg Institute research staff.