Small High Schools and Student Achievement: Lottery-Based Evidence from New York City

86 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2013

See all articles by Atila Abdulkadiroglu

Atila Abdulkadiroglu

Duke University - Department of Economics

Weiwei Hu

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science

Parag A. Pathak

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 2013

Abstract

One of the most wide-ranging reforms in public education in the last decade has been the reorganization of large comprehensive high schools into small schools with roughly 100 students per grade. We use assignment lotteries embedded in New York City's high school match to estimate the effects of attendance at a new small high school on student achievement. More than 150 unselective small high schools created between 2002 and 2008 have enhanced autonomy, but operate within-district with traditional public school teachers, principals, and collectively-bargained work rules. Lottery estimates show positive score gains in Mathematics, English, Science, and History, more credit accumulation, and higher graduation rates. Small school attendance causes a substantial increase in college enrollment, with a marked shift to CUNY institutions. Students are also less likely to require remediation in reading and writing when at college. Detailed school surveys indicate that students at small schools are more engaged and closely monitored, despite fewer course offerings and activities. Teachers report greater feedback, increased safety, and improved collaboration. The results show that school size is an important factor in education production and highlight the potential for within-district reform strategies to substantially improve student achievement.

Suggested Citation

Abdulkadiroglu, Atila and Hu, Weiwei and Pathak, Parag A., Small High Schools and Student Achievement: Lottery-Based Evidence from New York City (October 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19576. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2345070

Atila Abdulkadiroglu (Contact Author)

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

213 Social Sciences Building
Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Weiwei Hu

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Binghamton, NY 13902-6000
United States

Parag A. Pathak

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
E52-391
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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