Small Schools Can Make a Big Difference

The premiere of Small School Big City, a documentary chronicling the success of Pace University’s affiliated high school and how educators can make a difference in America’s public school system.

On September 13, 2004, Pace High School opened its doors to its first class of students. The school, which was launched as one of New York City’s 330 Empowerment Schools and is a collaboration between the University, the New Century High Schools Initiative, New Visions for Schools, and the New York City Department of Education, received much of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The high school is a college-oriented school with a curriculum tailored to meet student’s individual needs and goals. Located in Chinatown, the school works in close collaboration with Pace University’s School of Education and serves as a training ground for future teachers. It was named one of the top 10 most promising high schools in New York City by Time Out New York and five years after its founding, almost 90 percent of its students had graduated with over 390 college acceptances and more than $4 million of scholarship offers.

In 2008, noted filmmaker and documentarian Ken Browne (whose film Look, I’m in College documented four students with autism at Pace University and won best documentary short at the Newark Black Film Festival) was invited to chronicle the graduation of Pace High School’s founding students and document the success of the small-school model within New York City. The resulting film was a 30-minute documentary titled Small School Big City that previewed at the National Professional Development School Conference in New Orleans last November to rave reviews.

On Thursday, June 2 the School of Education hosted the premiere of Small School Big City, highlighting the extraordinary relationship between the University and high school. “The film is a tribute to the extraordinary success of the school since its opening in 2004,” says Arthur Maloney, EdD, School of Education professor and influential founder of Pace High School. “Moreover it is a summary of the unique role played by the University in creating this college preparatory, public school in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and underscores the power and commitment of Opportunitas.”

You can watch highlights of the documentary at: