The Effectiveness of Small High Schools, 1994-95 to 2003-04

90 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2007

See all articles by Robin Jacobowitz

Robin Jacobowitz

New York University (NYU)

Meryle Weinstein

New York University (NYU)

Date Written: April 2007


Growing concern about the quality of public education in the United States has driven numerous educational reform efforts across the last three decades, including the redesign of American public high schools and an increased focus on creating smaller schools and small learning communities. The New York University Institute for Education and Social Policy (IESP) has conducted mixed methods study to better understand the process of small school development over time and its relationship to student achievement. Specifically, we examine student and teacher demographic characteristics and student outcomes over time, and the organizational and instructional practices that contribute to positive learning environments in small schools.

Our quantitative analyses indicate that, on average, small high schools in New York City attract less qualified teachers and serve student populations with greater needs than large high schools. Despite these apparent disadvantages, however, the small high schools in our sample had higher outcomes, as measured by graduation and dropout rates, compared to the citywide high school average. Our qualitative research showed that all small high schools are not the same. High-performing small schools showed cohesion of pedagogical and non-academic practices, such as instructional practices that embodied a shared pedagogical philosophy, the implementation of learning routines that focused students on academic work, and a consistent application of rules and procedures, not found in the low-performing small schools.

Keywords: high school reform, small schools, instructional practices

Suggested Citation

Jacobowitz, Robin and Weinstein, Meryle, The Effectiveness of Small High Schools, 1994-95 to 2003-04 (April 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Robin Jacobowitz (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) ( email )

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Meryle Weinstein

New York University (NYU) ( email )

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