Monday, October 20, 2014
Why The MDRC Small School Study Is Crap.
Once again the so-called non-profit MDRC has used questionable statistics and biased assumptions to falsely show that the Bloomberg small schools, between 2002-07, had better graduation rates and enrolled in college at a higher percentage than the large high schools. Yes, if one looks at the simple conclusion it does look like the small schools have a 4 year graduation rate that's 15% higher than the large schools and 49% enroll in college compared to the 40% in the larger schools. However, if one looks deeper into the statistics you find some very disturbing problems with the study.
First, the MDRC study only sampled the oversubscribed small schools and not all the small schools. In particular, the MDRC study left out the small schools that had open seats and located in deep poverty communities. I wonder how that would have changed the small school statistics?
Second, its common knowledge that during the Chancellor Joel Klein tenure, which takes in the 2002-07 study period, small schools were allowed to exclude "high needs" students, like Special Education, English Language Learners, and students with behavioral, attendance, and academic difficulties.
Third, while the average large school was underfunded by 20%, the Bloomberg small schools were given their full allocation and then some more additional funding to ensure they succeed.
Finally, the DOE deliberately dumped large numbers of "high needs" and over the counter students into the large schools, lowering their 4 year graduation rates and college enrollment percentage.
Let's see, if I opened a school and excluded "high needs" students, used academics, attendance, and behavioral parameters to select or reject students, and didn't take my fair share of over the counter students my school would be successful too. What's interesting is that the small schools didn't have better results, considering their exclusion of low achieving middle school students. The reason probably lies with the poor administration (leadership academy principals) and their hiring of inexperienced teachers that hurt student academic achievement.
If you believe the MDRC study is accurate than I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.