The large traditional high schools have been attacked as a relic of the past and not serving the needs of today's students. Instead the Kleinberg administration is gun ho on developing small schools and fighting tooth and nail to increase Charter Schools. To try to prove they are right the DOE dumps the "not ready for promotion 8th graders", discipline problems, and children with disabilities on the large traditional high schools. To their surprise and disappointment there has been no net improvement for students who go to the small or charter schools, when compared to the large traditional high schools The reason for this is not evident. However, I do have some theories on why the large traditional high school can still do better on an uneven playing field.
First, the large traditional high school gives a student a wide variety of Honors and Advanced Placement courses as well as electives such as forensics, computer courses, finance courses, and law courses. By contrast, the small and charter usually don't have the ability to offer anything but courses associated with the school's theme (example the school of Law Enforcement only have courses associated with law). The lack of a varied and challenging curriculum limits student choice and therefore student achievement.
Second, the large traditional high school has many extracurricular activities an area that motivates student school participation. Sports programs, clubs, and academic teams. In particular the sports programs of the large high schools are usually split by gender. For example my school has football (Varsity and JV), soccer, track, basketball (Varsity and JV) swimming, volleyball, golf, handball, bowling, fencing,and baseball for the male students. The female students have swimming, volleyball, track, soccer, softball, basketball, bowling, golf, handball, and fencing. Students that join sports and other extracurricular activity do not get themselves in trouble and do well in class. By contrast the small and charter schools have very limited extracurricular activities and little or no sports teams.
Third, and I believe most importantly, the large traditional high schools have a higher percentage of experienced quality teachers. The flexibility of the course selection, and the chance of teaching highly motivated students in Honors and Avanced Placement courses attract teachers to the school. Case in point, my principal informed me that he received ten applications for two openings. All were experienced teachers with good references. I'm sure the small and charter schools do not receive the same quality teachers. In fact, based upon discussions with various teachers, it seems the small schools are looking for young, inexperienced teachers they can mold. As for the Charter schools? They are lucky if the teacher is certified and lasts for more than a year. Quality teachers? Give me a break!
In my overcrowded Queens high school not one teacher is uncertified and the average school experience is eight years! Are all of them quality? Of course not! However, many of them are
quality teachers and the students benefit from being exposed to them.
In conclusion, send your child to the large traditional high school if you want a well-rounded student that colleges will be happy to have on their campus.