New School Phase-in | New Visions for Public Schools
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New School Phase-in

Between 2000 and 2006, New Visions for Public Schools--with support from the Carnegie Corporation and in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, the United Federation of Teachers, the Council of Supervisors and Administrators and other partners--developed and implemented a strategy for closing many of New York City’s large, low-performing schools and replacing them with small schools of choice.

This work of phasing out large, failing schools and phasing in new, smaller ones was premised on a belief that small schools could serve as a vehicle for more comprehensive reform strategies.  The work was also grounded in a commitment to design thinking and processes, where teachers, community members, youth developers and students themselves--together with the school district and support organizations--participated in multiple design competitions for creating small learning environments.  The only constraint was that school plans had to be aligned with a specific set of 10 research-based criteria for improving instruction.  Any team that met these criteria and demonstrated sufficient capacity through the competition RFP process were permitted, with Department of Education approval, to start a school.

In their recent evaluations of this effort, MDRC determined that the intervention has been one of the most successful efforts of its kind in the history of education reform. The randomized, controlled study of 105 schools enrolling nearly 21,000 students found an 8% increase in graduation rates overall, and more importantly, an increase across all student subgroups including African-American and Latino males. In public forums, the authors of the report have announced that these gains are unprecedented.

The resources on this page further describe New Visions’ process of designing and phasing in new schools, and include some of the guiding documents and tools employed during the process.

Key Documents

Transforming the High School Experience: How New York City's New Small Schools Are Boosting Student Achievement and Graduation Rates

MDRC's full report on New York City's first 105 small high schools and their effect on achievement for the first cohort of graduating students. View

Sustained Positive Effects On Graduation Rates Produced By New York City's Small Public High Schools Of Choice

MDRC's follow-up policy brief examining the effects of small high schools on an additional cohort of students. View

Reframing Education: The Partnership Strategy and Public Schools (2005) by Janice M. Hirota

This volume contains two papers on New Century High Schools. The first provides a look at early partnership work at New Visions and in the first cohort of schools that opened in September 2002.  The second paper follows the developmental trajectory of partnerships, exploring their practices, challenges, and achievements as of the 2004-05 school year.  View