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Volume 14, Number 2
March/April 1998

Small Schools Work Best for Disadvantaged Students

New research looks at who benefits most from small schools


In October 1997, the New York Times published a draft proposal by the New York City school chancellor's office recommending that the city establish minimum school enrollments of 400 students for elementary schools, 600 for middle schools, and 800 for high schools in its district of more than 1 million students.

Just five years earlier, the city announced a program to create dozens of small schools with enrollments of under 400 students. Accordingly, community groups, school reformers, and local districts got together and started about 150 small public schools, some with enrollments of under 100 students.

Although Chancellor Rudy Crew backed away from the recommendations and assured reformers that he remains absolutely committed to small schools, in February 1998 he ordered about the half the city's alternative high schools to start increasing enrollments immediately, causing alarm among small school principals.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

J. Ancess. "Urban Dreamcatchers: Planning and Launching New Small Schools." In Small Schools, Big Imaginations: A Creative Look at Urban Public Schools. Chicago: Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform, in press; 312-322-4880.

K. Cotton. "School Size, School Climate, and Student Performance." Close-Up Number 20 in the School Improvement Research Series, produced by the Northwest Regional Education Laboratory, 1996; 503-275-9615.

N. Friedkin and J. Necochea. "School System Size and Performance: A Contingency Perspective." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 10, no. 3 (1988): 237-249.

R. Gladden. "The Small School Movement: A Review of the Literature." In Small Schools, Big Imaginations: A Creative Look at Urban Public Schools. Chicago: Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform.

C. Howley. "Compounding Disadvantage: The Effects of School and District Size on Student Achievement in West Virginia." Journal of Research in Rural Education 12, no. 1 (Spring 1996): 25-32.

C. Howley. "Dumbing Down By Sizing Up." School Administrator 54, no. 9 (October 1997): 24-30.

V. Lee and J. Smith. "High School Size: Which Size Works Best and for Whom?" Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 19, no. 3 (Fall 1997): 205-227.

D. Meier. The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1995.

D. Monk. "Secondary School Enrollment and Curricular Comprehensiveness." Economics of Education Review 6, no. 2 (1987): 137-150.

C. Roellke. "Curriculum Adequacy and Quality in High Schools Enrolling Fewer than 400 Pupils." Eric Digest (EDO 401 090). Available from Eric Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools, December 1996.