Does Small High School Reform Lift Urban Districts? Evidence From New York City

Leanna Stiefel, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Matthew Wiswall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research finds that small high schools deliver better outcomes than large high schools for urban students. An important outstanding question is whether this better performance is gained at the expense of losses elsewhere: Does small school reform lift the whole district? We explore New York City’s small high school reform in which hundreds of new small high schools were built in less than a decade. We use rich individual student data on four cohorts of New York City high school students and estimate effects of schools on student outcomes. Our results suggest that the introduction of small schools improved outcomes for students in all types of schools: large, small, continuously operating, and new. Small school reform lifted all boats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-172
Number of pages12
JournalEducational Researcher
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 15 2015


  • econometric analysis
  • educational reform
  • high schools
  • quasi-experimental analysis
  • regression analyses
  • school reform
  • small schools
  • systemic effects
  • urban education
  • urban high schools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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