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March 10, 2017
Number of New York City students successfully appealing Regents exam scores in order to graduate triples
Hundreds of New York City students took advantage of new, state-created graduation options.
February 23, 2017
Advocates decry Fariña’s explanation of low graduation rates among English learners
Members of a group that helps Haitian immigrants think the city’s 27 percent June graduation rate for English learners is related to high school admissions.
September 22, 2016
New York City schools expand career and technical education, while City Council members look to track progress
The New York City Department of Education will spend $113 million to expand and improve career and technical education programs.
getting to graduation
August 12, 2016
How one diverse New York City high school got 100 percent of its students to graduation
The school’s graduation rate is almost without precedent.
January 15, 2016
Indiana graduation rates dipped in 2015, but remain mostly flat over five years
More students have been graduating from Indiana high schools over the past nine years.
October 29, 2015
As Shelby County Schools seeks to expand ‘credit recovery,’ board reluctantly approves Pearson contract
The company will get $225,000 next year to help 15,000 students make up failed classes under a credit recovery policy that the district is asking the board to revise.
May 20, 2015
At 86 percent, Tennessee’s on-time high school graduation rate outpaces the nation, report says
The state's on-time high school graduation rate is outpacing the rest of the nation and moving steadily toward 90 percent by 2020, a report says.
May 19, 2015
National dropout expert: 'Cultural change' needed to improve graduation rates
The state's graduation rate is at an all-time high at 89.8 percent, according to the Indiana Department of Education.
May 13, 2015
Rise & Shine: Common Core bill becomes law
January 26, 2015
Positive trends in Denver graduation, drop-out rates continue
DPS's graduation rate ticked up from 61.3 percent to 62.8 percent, and its overall drop-out rate dropped from 5 percent to 4.5 percent.
Shelby County Schools
April 22, 2014
Shelby County Schools sets high goal for 2025, but no plan yet
At tonight's board meeting, Shelby County Schools plans to ask the school board to endorse the following set of goals: By 2025, 80 percent of students will be college-and-career ready, 90 percent of students will graduate high school, and 100 percent of those who graduate college-and-career ready will enroll in a post-secondary opportunities.
the long view
December 4, 2013
With HS graduation rate up, Bloomberg touts long-term gains
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, accompanied by Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, said the city's high-school graduation rate reached a new high in 2013. In an effort to burnish his education legacy before leaving office, Mayor Bloomberg took the unusual step Wednesday of announcing the city’s 2013 high-school graduation rate – which he said rose to a record high of 66 percent – a full six months before the state officially releases those figures. The rate touted by the mayor reflects students who graduated this August after four years. As usual, the rate among students who graduated by June was lower, at 61.3 percent – though that rate still represents a 32 percent increase since 2005. The latest August graduation rate is 1.3 percentage points higher than in 2012, when the rate declined for the first time under Bloomberg. The mayor said 2013’s preliminary graduation rate – which state officials said they verified – is the city’s highest since it adopted its current calculation method in 2005.
November 13, 2013
State releases redesigned school report card
The state released a new school report card today that includes a college and career readiness section. The Tennessee Department of Education said they…
August 26, 2013
Report again finds graduation rate gains at city’s small schools
For the third time, an independent research group has found that the Bloomberg administration's small high schools gave students who attended them a better chance of graduating. Being randomly selected to attend small high schools opened by Bloomberg made students significantly more likely to graduate, even for students who entered in the schools' third year, according to the report, conducted by researchers at the nonprofit firm MDRC. Students who entered in the schools' first three years graduated in four years 70.4 percent of the time, compared to 60.9 percent of the time for similar students in other schools, according to the report. The research was paid for by the Gates Foundation, which originally funded the small schools. The foundation put $150 million into the city's small schools before ending its small-schools giving in 2008, citing lackluster college readiness rates. The new report is the third installment in a series that examines "small schools of choice" that opened between 2002 and 2008 and did not select students based on their academic performance. Of the 123 schools that fit that bill, 105 had so many applicants that the schools selected among them randomly, through a lottery.
June 17, 2013
Bloomberg says lower grad rate reflects improved performance
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky announce the city's graduation rates. For Mayor Bloomberg, putting a positive spin on the city's latest high school graduation numbers required him to get creative with his number-crunching. The city's four-year graduation rate fell by half a point, to 60.4 percent, making Bloomberg's final press conference about the data the first to contend with a sharp decline. During a press conference at City Hall this afternoon, Bloomberg said the fact that the city's graduation rate did not fall more because of the state's tougher graduation requirements was reason for celebration. Last year was the first time that students had to pass five Regents exams with a grade or 65 or higher, as opposed to 55. "Everybody predicted that our graduation rates would fall precipitously and that did not happen," Bloomberg said. "This is showing improvement, not decline." In a PowerPoint presentation, Bloomberg highlighted how far the city's graduation rate would have climbed had the standards in place last year also been in place earlier in his term. City officials pointed out that if the state had not raised its graduation standards, the city's rate would have climbed by 1.4 points instead of falling. And Bloomberg said he could have raised graduation rates even more had his policy proposals never been stymied by the United Federation of Teachers, spurring a fresh round of mutual criticism.
silver linings statistics
June 17, 2013
Better news for city on college readiness, but wide gap remains
Chart Like the other large school districts in the state, New York City saw its graduation rate decline last year. But it bucked the trend when it came to graduates' preparedness for college, posting an increase where the other districts did not.
June 17, 2013
Education policy makers divided on how to interpret grad rates
State Education Commissioner John King presented new data about the state's high school graduation rate to the Board of Regents today in Albany. ALBANY — After listening to State Education Commissioner John King present the state's latest graduation rate data today, members of the Board of Regents were divided on how to respond. Some grumbled about the rates, pointing in particular to declines that the state's five largest cities experienced. But others said they had expected far worse. Though statewide graduation rates stayed steady at 74 percent, rates in the "Big Five" fell by 2.8 points on average, a dip that was largely weighted by a seven-point decline in Buffalo. In New York City, the four-year graduation rate dropped by half a point, to 60.4 percent. Elsewhere in the state, districts considered "low-need" because many students come from relatively affluent families graduated students on time 94 percent of the time. "Our affluent children do as well as anybody," said Regent Kathleen Cashin, of Brooklyn. "Where we don't do well is with the poor. This concerns me because of the fact that every single large city district has gone down."
June 17, 2013
HS graduation rate fell in 2012, for the first time under Bloomberg
New York City's four-year graduation rate fell slightly last year, from 60.9 percent to 60.4 percent, State Education Commissioner John King announced this morning in Albany. King's announcement, to the Board of Regents during its monthly meeting, set the stage for a press conference that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott have called for this afternoon. The annual graduation rate announcement is typically a festive occasion for the mayor, who has staked his education legacy in large part on increased numbers of students finishing high school each year. But last year, when the city's graduation rate flattened (showing a 0.1 point decline) after several years of steady growth, Bloomberg acknowledged that tougher graduation requirements could put pressure on the city's graduation rate. Students who entered high school in 2008 were the first required to earn a Regents diploma by passing five Regents exams with a 65 or higher. The less rigorous local diploma option, which for years helped prop up the city’s overall graduation numbers, disappeared, a change that critics said would leave thousands of students at risk of dropping out.
clearing the bar
November 26, 2012
Officials: A's reflect successes, but standards may be too low
It wasn't easy for high schools to keep their graduation rates or progress grades up this year. For the first time, most students were required to pass five Regents exams before graduating, and schools' college readiness rates were factored into their overall progress scores. Still, 72 percent of schools received As and Bs—up from 64.4 percent last year.
June 11, 2012
Bloomberg praises 2011 grad data growth, but hedges on future
Bloomberg with Walcott and Nilda Gomez-Katz, one of four high school principals at the old Bushwick High School building. Mayor Bloomberg did his best to put a rosy spin on the newly-released graduation rates that showed New York City's progress last year has flattened for the first time in seven years. Stunted graduation numbers weren't a setback as much as they were an impressive achievement in the face of higher standards, he said at a press conference this afternoon. And better rates of improvement in other cities weren't an indication of New York City's failures, but a credit to what those school districts were doing right. "They're doing a great job and they should be congratulated," Bloomberg said, even though in past years he's used such comparisons to tout his own city's growth. "That doesn't mean we aren't doing a great job." But even Bloomberg grew sober when asked about future graduation rates. Beginning this year, all students who began high school in 2007 or after will not have the option to earn a less-demanding local diploma, which for years helped prop up the city's overall graduation numbers. "That'll make it tougher," the mayor said. The man to his left, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, quickly agreed.
June 11, 2012
New York City's graduation rates flatten after six years of growth
After years of steady improvement, the city's 4-year high school graduation rate flattened in 2011, according to new figures released by the state today. Of students who entered high school in 2007, 60.9 percent graduated four years later, according to the new figures. When August graduates are included, the rate rises to 65.5 percent. Sixty-one percent of students who entered city high schools in 2006 graduated on time in 2010. That year's graduation rate with August graduates included was 65.1 percent. The plateau comes after six years of growth that saw graduation rates rise from 46.5 percent in 2005 to 61 percent last year. Before that, graduation rates were stagnant for a decade and its steady improvement over the past six years has been one of the Bloomberg administration's cornerstone achievements to cite in defending its education policies. And as graduation standards increase, the flattened figures aren't likely to resume that rate of improvement in coming years. Graduation could drop by as much as much as 10 percent next year. That's the percentage of high school students – or about 8,000 students – who graduated with a local diploma, which allowed them to graduate despite scoring under 65 on one Regents exam. The local diploma has been phased out and the option won't be available to this year's students.
May 23, 2012
Advocates seek last-minute extension of less rigorous diploma
Tougher graduation requirements almost two decades in coming are putting thousands of city students at risk of not earning a diploma this year. Advocates are asking the state to give more students more time before fully implementing more stringent graduation requirements, but city officials say educators and students have had plenty of time to prepare. For the first time, students in New York State will only be able to graduate with a Regents diploma, requiring they receive a 65 or above on at least five Regents exams. In the past, students could graduate with a local diploma, allowing them to receive a 55 on at least five exams. In the 1990s, state officials initiated a change to make requirements for the local diploma increasingly stringent, until it could be phased out. Last year, students were able to receive a local diploma by passing four Regents exams with a 65, and one with a 55. It's impossible to know how many students will be affected, but the Department of Education estimates that 10 percent of the city’s class of 2011— almost 8,000 students — received a local diploma.
February 23, 2012
City alters Regents grading, credit recovery policies after audit
The Department of Education is cracking down on graduation rate inflation, following an internal audit that uncovered errors and possible evidence of cheating at 60 high schools. The audits, conducted by the department's internal auditor, scrutinized data at 60 high schools that had posted unusual or striking results. Of the 9,582 students who graduated from the schools in 2010, the audit found that 292 did not have the exam grades or course credits required under state regulations. At one school, Landmark High School, 35 students had graduated without earning all of the academic credits required for graduation. At another, Pablo Neruda Academy for Architecture and World Studies, 19 students had gotten credits through "credit recovery" that the school could not prove complied with state requirements. At two schools, Fort Hamilton High School and Hillcrest High School, an examination of Regents exams uncovered problems in the scoring of multiple students' tests. Department officials said they had asked Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon to launch inquiries at nine schools based on issues raised during the audits. (Schools where investigations were already underway were excluded from the audit.) Students who graduated without sufficient credits won't have their diplomas revoked, officials said. And schools won't have their graduation rates revised to reflect the audited numbers, either, except potentially where the city found schools had purged students from their rolls without confirming that they had enrolled elsewhere. Instead, department officials are cracking down on loopholes in city and state regulations about how to graduate students. Among the major policy changes are revisions to Regents exam scoring procedures, new limitations on "credit recovery" options for students who fail courses, and an alteration to the way schools determine whether a student has met graduation requirements. The changes reflect a new understanding of the degree to which principals had become confused with — or, in some cases, ignorant of — graduation policies. They also reflect an unusual acknowledgment from the Department of Education that its strategies for delivering support to schools and holding them accountable are not always successful.
the charm? (updated)
February 9, 2012
IBO: Schools up for closure tonight enroll very needy students
A slide from the IBO's report about schools up for closure. For the third year in a row, the city's data watchdog has concluded that the schools the city is trying to close serve especially needy students. In 2010 and 2011, the Independent Budget Office put together longer reports about the city's school closure proposals on the request of Robert Jackson, chair of the City Council's education committee. But this year, the office, which has a special mandate to scrutinize the Department of Education's facts and figures, compiled details about the demographics, performance, and funding of schools on the chopping block on its own. Then it released the statistics in an easy-to-read, stand-alone format. Among the many people who are receiving the IBO's 13-slide presentation by email today are the members of the Panel for Educational Policy, who are set to vote on the closure proposals tonight, according to spokesman Doug Turetsky. "It's an accessible format so people can see the stats and come to their own conclusions," he said. UPDATE: Department of Education officials disputed some of the data in the slides and said the budget office had not given them as much time to review the report before publication as an agreement between the two offices requires. They urged the IBO not to release the report and then to retract it once it was published because data on at least one slide did not match information the city had provided. The budget office retracted one slide that showed change over time in the number of students with special needs at the schools. But other slides showed that the schools up for closure enroll more than the average proportion of students who have disabilities, are overage, or are considered English language learners, confirming analyses published elsewhere.
January 26, 2012
Report finds lasting graduation rate gains at city's small schools
The Bloomberg administration has long touted the small high schools it created as outperforming large schools closed to make way for them. But a new report finds, for the second time, that the schools also post higher graduation rates than other city schools that stayed open. Being randomly selected to attend small high schools opened under the Bloomberg administration made students significantly more likely to graduate, even as the schools got older, according to the report, conducted by researchers at the nonprofit firm MDRC. The researchers updated a 2010 study that examined "small schools of choice" that opened between 2002 and 2008 and did not select students based on their academic performance. Of the 123 schools that fit that bill, 105 had so many applicants that the schools selected among them randomly, through a lottery. The lottery process enabled the researchers to compare what happened to two groups of students that started out statistically identical: those who were admitted to the small schools and those who lost the lotteries and wound up in older, larger schools. That type of comparison is considered the "gold standard" in education research. The original study found that the small high schools had positive effects on their students — but it looked only at the schools' very first enrollees. The new report looks at those students in the fifth year after they enrolled and also at the second set of students who enrolled at the schools. It finds that the higher graduation rate — 67.9 percent, compared to 59.3 percent for students who were not admitted — continued for the second group of students who enrolled and cut across all groups of students, regardless of their race, gender, family income, or academic skills upon enrollment. Students at the small schools were also more likely to meet the state's college readiness standards in English, though not in math. "Small schools for a variety of reasons, I always felt, were going to succeed in certain ways," said Richard Kahan, the head of Urban Assembly, a nonprofit that started a handful of schools included in the study. "But I would not have predicted the impact."
The Big Fix
July 6, 2011
At Grady, transformation funds change school's look and feel
Geraldine Maione, principal of William E. Grady CTE High School, speaks to a teacher getting ready for summer school. “Everything about this school has improved. Everything.” Geraldine Maione, principal of William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School in Brighton Beach, does not hesitate when asked about the trajectory of her school. Maione just finished her first year at Grady, where she was greeted with a staff weary of leadership changes, a curriculum that has see-sawed between emphasizing traditional academics and the school’s signature “shops,” and a D grade on its 2009-10 progress report. She was also given $1.4 million of additional “transformation” money through the federal government's program to improve low-achieving schools. At the end of her first year, staff members say they've felt the impact of Maione's leadership and the additional funds—though it is unclear if the school is yet making the academic gains it needs to avoid facing closure in the future. The transformation money helped pay for an array of cosmetic changes to the building and school trips to colleges throughout New York state, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC. The entrance area was repainted from black and white to maroon and yellow, the school colors. The front doors are now framed by planters, filled with flowers, that double as benches. Murals featuring civil rights leaders and faces of current students fill once-blank hallway walls.
June 15, 2011
Grad rate gains at some set-to-close schools outpace city's
The 14 high schools the city is trying to close this year posted lower-than-average graduation rates — but they are not all the city's worst. Now, teachers union officials are drawing attention to three other high schools approved for closure that posted graduation rate increases two times or more than the city's overall 2 percent gain. In the Bronx, Christopher Columbus High School's 4-year graduation rate rose by 5.7 percentage points, to 41.6 percent. Norman Thomas High School, in Manhattan, saw its 4-year rate go from 37 percent to 47.8 percent. Brooklyn's Paul Robeson High School saw a similar leap, to 50 percent from 40.4 percent last year. "We knew that we had increased our graduation rate last year by 10 percent and have been saying that since November but no one pays any attention," said Stefanie Siegel, a Robeson teacher who has been active in protests against the school's planned closure. "When our spirits were high after we won the court case last year, we made great gains in a short period of time," she said. That court case was the lawsuit the teachers union won to stop the city from closing 19 low-performing schools. Performance boosts at three of the high schools kept them off the chopping block this year. Two of the schools got higher progress report grades, 85 percent of which depend on graduation rates and students' progress toward graduation. The city said it was confident in a leadership change at the third school. The schools with oversized gains this year still lag well behind the citywide average 4-year graduation rate of 61 percent. And many of the other schools slated for closure continued to post dismal graduation figures.
June 14, 2011
Touting grad rate boosts, Bloomberg rejects state's concerns
Mayor Bloomberg points to a chart showing graduation rate increases among ethnic groups. City students are doing better than ever, the achievement gap is closing — and state officials' concern about college readiness is misguided. Those were the messages Mayor Bloomberg broadcast at the city's press conference about new graduation rate data, which put the city's official 4-year graduation rate over 60 percent for the first time. Indeed, the data released today show that two trends continued last year: The city's graduation rate again rose faster than that of other urban districts in New York State, and black and Hispanic students posted larger gains than white and Asian students, though they still lag far behind. But today's data also draw attention to the fact that many city students are making it to graduation despite weak academic skills. According to a new measure the state adopted this year, just 21 percent of students who entered city high schools in 2006 were ready for college four years later. A higher proportion of graduates — 35 percent — met the state's standards, city officials noted.
touch of gray
June 14, 2011
Concerns underlie city's grad rate, over 60 percent for first time
The city's 4-year high school graduation rate continued its upward tick last year and now exceeds 60 percent for the first time, according to new figures released by the state today. Sixty-one percent of students who entered high school in 2006 graduated four years later, according to the new figures. Last year, the city's graduation rate was 59 percent. When August graduates are included, the rate rises to 65.1 percent. But the new figures show that city graduates continue to lag on more demanding measures of achievement. Just 1 in 5 graduates is prepared for college, according to the state's measure of college readiness, which looks at students' math and English Regents exam scores in addition to their diploma type. That's compared to 36.7 percent of graduates statewide. And just 16.4 percent of city graduates earned the prestigious Regents diploma with Advanced Distinction, far more than in the state's four other large cities but significantly lower than the statewide average of 30.9 percent, according to the state data. Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott are likely to emphasize the city's performance and growth relative to the state's four other large school districts when they present the new graduation rate at a press conference later today.
April 5, 2011
Schools call new discharge reporting requirements burdensome
An audit by the state comptroller found that the city might have underreported its dropout rate by reclassifying dropouts as "discharges," or students who have moved out of the district. But new procedures actually make it extremely burdensome for schools to classify students as discharged, school officials say. Until this year, high schools could classify a student as discharged to another state or city as long as the student provided proof of address that was confirmed by two people. That meant the student was removed from his original school's roster without hurting its graduation rate. But now the city requires city schools to prove that a school elsewhere requested transcripts of students they say are discharges, not dropouts. School administrators say this requirement presents a mountain of new paperwork for overworked personnel and, sometimes, real difficulty, as transfer students often encounter complications enrolling in new schools. Students might take a long time to find a school in their new home. They might have a hard time navigating an interstate paperwork shuffle. Their new school might not require a transcript. Or they might be kept out of out-of-state schools altogether because of their disciplinary records or language needs, according to Rhonda Hugel, assistant principal at Lower East Side Preparatory High School, which serves a large Chinese immigrant population. “Who knows if these states have the resources for the kids,” she said. The stakes are high. If schools don't get sufficient documentation from a student's new school within 20 days, he could be counted as a dropout, and the school's graduation rate could fall.
January 31, 2011
As closure votes near, thoughts on what will follow for students
Department of Education officials frequently claim that students who attend schools that are phasing out benefit from being there. As school officials told City Council members last week, students get more attention and a stronger push toward grad as the schools get smaller. Today, two posts in the GothamSchools Community section challenge the city's story. In the first (reposted from the blog EdVox), Melissa Kissoon describes what happened to her school after it started phasing out. She writes: My first two years of high school at Lane were great. There were clubs and extra credit activities to help students get ahead or to help struggling students pass. ... Now all the great teachers we once loved have either switched to the other schools in the building or have just gone to another school completely. Now there is no money for the last year of students within my school. For example, there is no longer a library! A second Community piece, by Christine Rowland, looks at graduation and dropout rates at the four schools where she has worked — two of which closed in 2006 and two of which are up for closure this year. At last week's City Council hearing, the department presented data that showed that both graduation rates and dropout rates climbed at schools in the process of phasing out. Rowland dug into the DOE's data archives and found that that pattern hasn't always been true.
September 21, 2010
Graduation rates vary widely at schools serving similar students
CFE found that eighth-grade attendance was more closely associated with graduation rates than any other variable. City high schools that serve similar students graduate their students at wildly different rates, according to a report to be released today. Among schools with the neediest students, one school graduated 90 percent of students in four years. Another graduated just 34 percent, the report found. The report confirms that the city's highest-performing schools overwhelmingly enroll students who already had high test scores and attendance rates. But it also shows that even among schools serving the highest-need students, some do a much better job graduating students than others. The report was prepared by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the group that successfully fought for an extra $5.4 billion in 2004 for the city's neediest schools. The study looked at ninth graders who entered high school in 2004. It separated high schools into peer groups based on the demographics and eighth-grade academic performances of that class. (Read the full report here.)
the small print (updated)
July 12, 2010
What it really means to score "proficient" on New York tests
A reader recently drew my attention to a deceptively unassuming chart that the city often uses to defend its heavy reliance on state tests. The chart shows how neatly eighth graders' scores on the tests predict their future academic success. The higher the score they get, the better their shot at graduating high school with a Regents diploma — the only kind that will count come 2014. But the reader pointed out that the chart also includes a more frightening statistic: Students who score at a level considered proficient by every measure, a 3 out of possible 4, only have a 55% shot of getting a Regents diploma.
Pomp and Circumstance
March 9, 2010
Breaking city record, more than half of Hispanic students graduate
More than half of the New York City's Hispanic students graduated from high school last year, the first time the city has reached that bar since it began tracking graduation rates in the 1980s. That statistic stood out among several gains reported in graduation rate data trumpeted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein today. The city has nearly halved its drop-out rate over the past five years, and the number of students earning Regents and Advanced Regents diplomas rose, according to data released today by the city and state education departments. "The results for New York City are historic," said Bloomberg, speaking to reporters at the city Department of Education's Tweed Courthouse headquarters this afternoon. The city's four-year graduation rates for students who entered high school in 2005 was 59 percent, up three percentage points from students the year before.
March 9, 2010
City graduation rate rises for fifth year in a row, to 59 percent
PHOTO: Sarah GlenSource: New York State Education Department New York City’s graduation rates have increased for the fifth time in as many years. The…
July 22, 2009
Comptroller-DOE feud takes center stage at audit announcement
Comptroller William Thompson is releasing his second education audit in two days right now, this time focusing on testing conditions and oversight in the city schools. Also for the second time in two days, the comptroller has barred a Department of Education spokesman from his announcement. Today's audit exposes "major flaws in testing by the New York City Department of Education," Thompson's office said in a press announcement this morning. But the audit says, "Our observations conducted at the sample schools on the day of testing did not reveal any instances of cheating." Today's report is already drawing some of the same criticism from the city as yesterday's audit, about how city schools qualify students for graduation. That audit found sloppy record-keeping at many city schools but no clear evidence of grade-tampering. City officials charged that Thompson conducted the graduation audit for political, rather than professional, reasons. As the city comptroller, Thompson's job is to audit official city statistics. But he is also the main challenger to Mayor Bloomberg's reelection bid. DOE press chief David Cantor leveled the first complaints about today's audit just minutes after the press conference began — a press conference that he was not attending after being kicked out by a member of Thompson's staff.
reading between the snipes
July 21, 2009
Lost in the political war, modest but real grad rate concerns
The accelerating 2009 mayoral campaign is distracting from real information inside an audit of city graduation rates released by the city comptroller's office today. In fact, the audit is neither as damning as Bill Thompson Jr., the comptroller and mayoral hopeful, is claiming — nor as unequivocally rosy as the Bloomberg administration says. Thompson said the audit suggests that principals and teachers responded to pressure to raise graduation rates by falsifying student records. "The New York City Department of Education has become the Enron of American education, showing the gains and hiding the losses," he said at a press conference today. But the audit found no evidence of tampering. Thompson's declaration about fudging numbers came in remarks to reporters, not the official audit. "Is it just about sloppy bookkeeping or sloppy record-keeping? I don't think so," he said. He added, "This is a case where you can read between the lines." The audit also concludes that only 2 out of 206 randomly selected graduates, or 1%, did not deserve their diplomas. That's quite different than the 10% figure being widely reported. Auditors initially challenged 19 graduates, or 10%, but threw out the concerns about 17 of them after school officials provided documents showing they earned their diplomas. And 11 of the 19 had overall grade averages of 80% or better, according to the audit.
voice of dissent (updated)
July 16, 2009
Fernandez: More city grads lacked basic skills under Bloomberg
Dolores Fernandez, the Bronx's appointee to the re-formed Board of Education, appearing on BronxTalk. Graduates of the city's public high schools are falling so behind in reading and math that a community college remediation program doubled in size between 1998 and 2008, the college's former president said this week. Dolores Fernandez, who resigned from Hostos Community College last year is now serving as the Bronx borough president's appointee to the re-formed Board of Education, made the remarks in an interview on a Bronx television news program, BronxTalk. "I would have loved for the New York City public schools to put my remediation programs out of business, because that would mean that every kid graduating out of the schools could read, write, and do math," Fernandez said. Fernandez said that a hiking up of standards at CUNY's four-year colleges played some part in the growth of Hostos's remediation program. "But then you still have the regular group of kids who just are coming to us in need of a GED diploma, because they haven't graduated from the public schools, and when we get them, we're basically teaching them reading, writing, and math — I mean, basic levels," she said. The gloomy picture challenges Bloomberg's own claims about the public schools, which state figures show now graduate far more students since 2002. But Fernandez said she does not trust these figures as a fair picture of what is really happening, especially for the poor Latino community she served at Hostos Community College. You can watch the interview in the full two parts below. UPDATE: Department of Education spokesman Andrew Jacob points out in the comments section that a growing remediation program does not mean that more city students are struggling. His argument: the size of the program doesn’t tell you anything about the percentage of graduates who required remediation, because the number of public school graduates enrolling at CUNY community colleges has risen dramatically in recent years–70% between 2002 and 2008. Among Hispanic public school graduates, enrollment doubled over that same time period. With this many more students enrolling, of course the remediation program would expand, even if the percentage of graduates needing remediation fell. And, in fact, that percentage has fallen across all CUNY community colleges, from 82 percent in 2002 to 74 percent in 2008. Among all CUNY colleges, the remediation rate for public school graduates has fallen from 58% to 51%.
Pomp and Circumstance
June 22, 2009
Graduation rates are up and officials forecast an even rosier future
Mayor Bloomberg announced today that New York's graduation rates are on the rise for the seventh consecutive year. According to Department of Education data the city's four-year graduation rate climbed from nearly 53 percent in 2007 to over 56 percent in 2008. The nearly 4-percentage point jump refers to students who started ninth grade in 2004 and graduated in 2008. The percentage of students graduating from the city's public schools fell short of the statewide average of roughly 71 percent. But New York City's rates were higher compared to those in major cities like Buffalo and Syracuse. Calling the rate increase "dramatic," Mayor Bloomberg declared it a victory for the 2002 law that centralized the city's school governance. The law is set to sunset on June 30. "The bottom line is, all signs are pointing in the right direction," Bloomberg said. "And I think everybody understands that mayoral control really has been the key to all of this."
June 22, 2009
Regents consider preserving the less-rigorous "local" diploma
The state's top education policymakers are considering scrapping a plan to raise high school graduation standards, a Board of Regents member told me today. The rethinking comes in response to data showing that one-third of black and Hispanic students who graduate from high school today would not graduate if the state raised its standards. It also comes as the new Regents chancellor, Merryl Tisch, has been vowing to raise standards. Tisch recently traveled to a Chicago conference where 46 states vowed their support for common standards across the country. She did not return a request for comment this afternoon. State school officials had said they would get rid of what are known as "local" diplomas, less rigorous versions of the more prestigious Regents diplomas, beginning with students who entered ninth-grade this year. While students must score 65 out of 100 on state subject exams to earn a Regents diploma, they can now score 55 and graduate with a local diploma. But Regent Betty Rosa, of the Bronx, told me that the board is considering scrapping that plan, which she said was never a foregone conclusion. "I think some people thought it was, but there’s been some concern on both sides of the equations," Rosa said. Mayor Bloomberg said he favors getting rid of the local diploma at a press conference today where he announced the latest graduation rate:
June 22, 2009
A first look at graduation rate numbers: Up, up, up
The state Education Department has released graduation rate data on its website; find all the Power Points and spreadsheets here. The New…
June 22, 2009
State to release graduation rates today; city boasting 4-point rise
Graduation data for students who entered high school in 2004 will be released today, the State Education Department has announced. The city will announce that its graduation rate jumped four points, according to the New York Post. A gain of that magnitude would outstrip the increases of the last few years and would bring the city's official graduation rate to 56 percent. City officials were hinting at an increase last week: Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told an audience that he had looked at internal third- and fourth-year data for many of the city's new small high schools and seen continued gains. "The results are consistently higher," he said, adding that the rate was continuing to inch upward at large high schools as well. Asked about graduation rate and dropout trends, the department's data czar Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger told the City Council on Thursday, "We certainly expect rates to rise and everything else to go down."
June 18, 2009
Grad rates could fall under new rules, but officials aren't worried
Image courtesy of the ##http://www.newschool.edu/milano/nycaffairs/##Center for New York City Affairs## The City Council's education committee this morning is taking up concerns that the city could be in for a rude awakening in the coming years as high school graduation requirements become more stringent. In the past, students could opt for either of two diploma types: The local diploma requires scores of at least 55 on five state Regents exams, while the more challenging Regents diploma requires those scores to be 65 or higher. Starting with this year's ninth-graders, all students will have to earn Regents diplomas. Some advocates are warning that the state's new requirement could slash the city's graduation rate, particularly for needy students. They point out that if that requirement had been in place five years ago, the city's graduation rate would stand at just 37 percent.
sticking to his guns
June 17, 2009
Klein: Small high schools still succeeding, and more are coming
The high school report released today shows that the Gates Foundation's support for small schools was worthwhile, according to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. His statement contrasts with the foundation's own evaluation of its small schools spending, which it said last year had not produced the academic gains it had hoped. Bill Gates himself said in November that while New York City's small schools have done better than others his foundation started, the schools still do not adequately prepare students for college. Delivering introductory remarks before a panel discussion about small schools this morning, Klein said the Center for New York City Affairs report "confirms the work of the Gates Foundation," which provided much of the funding that allowed the city to open small schools. Today's report "carefully documents" that the schools have gotten better results than the large schools they replaced, Klein said — and with the same type of students, contrary to the charges by critics who say the small schools' students start off better prepared. (In the schools' early years, they enrolled students who were slightly less at-risk, but they now admit their fair share of overage students, students with disabilities, and students who are learning English, the report concludes.) Despite his generally favorable review, Klein disputed some of the report's findings, especially around graduation rates.
April 30, 2009
Saying discharges are up, report demands grad rate audit
Six years after Schools Chancellor Joel Klein vowed to crack down on a bureaucratic loophole that allowed principals to hide students' failure to graduate high school, a new report (PDF) suggests that the loophole remains open and may be growing wider. The report calls for closer study of the students classified as "discharges" — departures from the system, but not dropouts — through steps including a state audit. The report says that 21 percent of students who entered high school in 2003 both never graduated and were never counted as dropouts, instead falling into a category known as "discharges." The percentage was up from 17.5 percent among the Class of 2000. The rate is especially high among special education students, and includes a remarkable jump in 2005, when the special education discharge rate shot up to 36 percent from 23 percent in a single year. Students classified as discharges can include those who left the school system for legitimate reasons, such as moving to another state, deciding to enroll in an outside G.E.D. program, or death. But some advocates have argued that principals can also misuse the discharge code, entering students who simply dropped out in order to inflate their graduation rate artificially. A recent audit of 12 high schools in New York State by the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, found that high schools classified students as G.E.D. discharges who did not actually enroll in a G.E.D. program. "As a result," DiNapoli's audit concluded, "the report cards understated the number and percentage of dropouts and overstated the percentage of graduates for some of the schools we reviewed." The audit did not probe any New York City high schools. Two persistent critics of the Bloomberg administration compiled the report: the executive director of Class Size Matters, Leonie Haimson, and a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, Jennifer Jennings. Jennings was the author of the now-defunct Eduwonkette blog, whose analysis of New York City education data became (as I reported) a thorn in the Bloomberg administration's side. The report is being released at a press conference this morning held by a third critic, the city's public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum. City school officials were already disputing the report's claims yesterday, before it had been released.
March 17, 2009
New warring memos dispute ELLs' performance under Klein
The city Department of Education today heralded performance gains among students who are considered English language learners in a new report about how those students have fared under Chancellor Joel Klein's leadership. The tone of the report and its accompanying press release is very different from the tone of Friday's mayoral control hearing in the Bronx, where numerous speakers complained that the department has paid too little attention to ELL students. The report declares that Klein and Mayor Bloomberg have built a "stronger system-wide infrastructure" to support English language learners, and says that the efforts are "starting to bear fruit." More than 29% of fourth-graders met English standards in 2008, compared to 4% in 2003; 64% met math standards in 2008, up from 36% in 2003. The report cautions that middle school test scores and graduation rates are not as rosy, but points out that former English language learners — students who once received help in learning English but have since tested proficient at English — are out-performing even non-ELL students. The report paints a very different picture from the one presented at the Bronx hearing Friday.
outside the box
February 4, 2009
A venerable welfare agency says mayoral control could help kids
Most supporters of mayoral control list similar reasons for why they prefer the governance structure: it consolidates accountability in a single person; it reduces corruption that can proliferate in a decentralized system. But there's also a less prominent argument: that mayoral control could facilitate a new breed of full-service schools that tackle both poverty and low academic achievement. Teachers union president Randi Weingarten made this argument last year when she said mayors could create "community schools" by linking city agencies in innovative ways. But I hadn't heard it again until today, when I spoke with Katherine Eckstein, a public policy expert who works at the Children's Aid Society, one of the city's oldest social services agencies. "When kids are hungry or depressed, or have no place to go, or have chronic medical problems, they have no way to take advantage of opportunities put before them," she told me. Eckstein, the public policy director for the organization's National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools, said many services exist that can help students deal with such issues, but they are not always effectively delivered. "I see this as the promise of mayoral control — harnessing the power of city agencies," she said, adding that the Children's Aid Society plans to promote this idea as the debate over mayoral control's future picks up.
February 4, 2009
Predicting grad rate crisis, report calls for focus on high schools
If the graduation requirements in effect for this year's ninth-graders had applied to students who entered high school five years ago, the city's graduation rate would be just 37 percent. The new, more stringent requirements could cause the city's graduation rate, which has only recently topped 50 percent, to plummet, advocates say in a new report (pdf) about what they call a "looming crisis" for the city schools. The report, prepared by the Coalition for Educational Justice, a parent group, details how poor and minority students could suffer most under the new rules. Beginning with this year's freshman class, all high school students will have to earn what's called a Regents diploma by scoring 65 or higher on five different state exams. Until now, the state has allowed students who scored between 55 and 64 on any of the tests to graduate with a less rigorous diploma. The less rigorous diploma, called a local diploma, has been the most common type earned by city students. At a press conference on the steps of the Department of Education this morning, CEJ and dozens of other advocates called for an emergency working group of state and city education officials to focus on how to help schools where few students are on track to graduate with Regents diplomas.
rules and regulations
October 31, 2008
New York ahead of the curve on new NCLB graduation rules
Satellite Academy graduate (via flickr) New federal regulations are going to force many states to change the way they report high school graduation…
October 27, 2008
In setting graduation rate goals, New York at the bottom
The states with the top five and bottom five graduation rate goals. A new report from Education Trust, the D.C.-based think tank (PDF), lays out all 50 states' target graduation rates for high schools. As the graph above shows, New York's 55% rate comes in at the bottom of the list, sneaking in right above Nevada, whose target is 50%. The targets are required by the No Child Left Behind law, which forces states to determine whether every one of their high schools is meeting standards or not. To meet standards, high schools must either meet their state's specific graduation rate target — the figures featured in the chart — or, barring that, meet an improvement goal. If a school doesn't meet the standard, consequences can be strict; in New York, punishments include forcibly shutting schools down and reopening them under a new leadership and structure. The improvement goals are sometimes shockingly low. More than half of all states allow any progress at all, or simply that a school does not let its graduation rate drop from where it was the year before. Others require the rate to go up by at least 0.01 percentage point. New York in this regard is remarkable for setting a target increase of 0.1 percentage point.
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