NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Small Schools More Successful Than Larger Schools

August 11, 2000

Small schools -- elementary schools with fewer than 350 students and high schools with fewer than 400 students -- improve the success of students in urban areas by making the school environment more personal. A Bank Street College study focused on 150 small Chicago public schools founded between 1990 and 1997, tracking their progress through 1999.

Among the findings in Small Schools: Great Strides:

  • The teachers, students and parents were all more satisfied at the small schools than at the larger schools.
  • Students had better attendance rates, lower dropout rates, higher grade point averages and improved standardized test scores compared to students at larger schools.
  • Smaller schools experienced less violence due to increased personal interactions between teachers, students, parents and peers.
  • Conditions for learning are better in small schools because teachers know their students, collaborate more freely with other teachers, and foster a more open and creative learning environment.

While this two-year study was limited to Chicago, other urban schools in Boston, Philadelphia and New York are also reducing school size. Nationally, the average public school has 744 students.

Source: Patricia Wasley, et al., "Small Schools: Great Strides," June 20, 2000, Bank Street College, New York City.


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