June 23, 2010; Source: Associated Press | A study released on Wednesday finds that small high schools, such as those funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are succeeding at boosting graduation rates for what are described as some of New York City’s “most academically challenged students.” The study, which was conducted by MDRC, reviewed 105 schools in New York that have no more than 550 students.
By the end of their first year of high school, some 58.5 percent students in the smaller schools examined for the study were found to be “on track to graduate in four years, compared with 48.5 percent of the students in other schools,” according to the Associated Press. The overall graduation rate at the small schools reached 68.7 percent compared with 61.9 percent for the control group by the end of four years. . “This shows the strategy is working,” said New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
Over the past 8 years, the city has closed more than 20 large high schools that had enrollments as high as 4,000 each and replaced them with 216 small schools. Ironically, the Gates Foundation, which has invested more than $150 million in New York City schools, shifted its grantmaking strategy in 2008. Instead of starting new schools, the foundation has since been targeting teacher effectiveness and national standards. Even though the findings of the new study are a positive endorsement of the foundation’s previous strategy, it has no plans to reverse its decision.— Bruce Trachtenberg