NYC’s small high schools initiative: An interview with Rebecca Unterman, MDRC – Episode #7

Rebecca UntermanRebecca Unterman is a research associate at MDRC and coauthor (with Howard Bloom) of MDRC’s four-year impact study of New York City’s “small schools of choice,” an evaluation funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as other philanthropies.

As background, during the past decade New York City undertook a large scale high school reform effort that involved closing 23 large failing high schools and opening more than 200 new small high schools – each with different missions, structures, and student selection criteria. At the heart of the reform were 123 small, academically nonselective public high schools. MDRC researchers call them “small schools of choice” (SSC) because of their small size and the fact that they do not screen students based on their academic backgrounds.

MDRC’s evaluation uses random assignment (lotteries of students into schools), allowing it to rigorously estimate the effects of enrolling in an SSC versus enrolling in some other New York City public high school. With a sample size of over 21,000 students, it is a large-scale study and one that has important implications for education reform in the U.S.

Web extra: Rebecca Unterman explains MDRC’s next steps in its evaluation of small schools of choice in New York City [click here].