getting to graduation

New York City graduation rate hits record high of 74.3 percent in 2017

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the 2017 graduation rate at South Bronx Preparatory school.

New York City’s graduation rate rose to 74.3 percent in 2017, a slight increase over the previous year and a new high for the city.

The 1.2 percentage point increase over the previous year continues an upward climb for the city, where the overall graduation rate has grown by nearly 28 points since 2005. The state graduation rate also hit a new high — 82.1 percent — just under the U.S. rate of 84.1 percent.

The city’s dropout rate fell to 7.8 percent, a small decline from the previous year and the lowest rate on record, according to the city.

“New York City is showing that when we invest in our students, they rise to the challenge and do better and better,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Wednesday.

More graduates were also deemed ready for college-level work. Last year, 64 percent of graduates earned test scores that met the City University of New York’s “college-ready” benchmark — up more than 13 percentage points from the previous year. 

However, the gains came after CUNY eased its readiness requirements; without that change, city officials said the increase would be significantly smaller. But even with the less rigorous requirements, more than a third of city students who earned high-school diplomas would be required to take remedial classes at CUNY.

Phil Weinberg, the education department’s deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, noted that CUNY’s college-readiness requirements are more demanding than New York’s graduation standards — which are among the toughest in the country.

We will work toward making sure none of our students need remediation when they get to college,” he told reporters. “But that’s a long game for us and we continue to move in that direction.”

The rising graduation rates follow a series of changes the state has made in recent years to help more students earn diplomas.

The graduation-requirement changes include allowing students with disabilities to earn a diploma by passing fewer exit exams and letting more students appeal a failed score. In addition, students can now substitute a work-readiness credential for one of the five Regents exams they must pass in order to graduate — adding to a number of other alternative tests the state has made available in the past few years.

About 9,900 students used one of those alternative-test or credential options in 2017, while 315 students with disabilities took advantage of the new option for them, according to state officials. They could not say how many students successfully appealed a low test score; but in 2016, about 1,300 New York City students did so.

The news was mixed for schools in de Blasio’s high-profile “Renewal” improvement program for low-performing schools. Among the 28 high schools that have received new social services and academic support through the program, the graduation rate increased to nearly 66 percent — almost a 6 percentage point bump over 2016. Their dropout rate also fell by about 2 points, to 16.4 percent, though that remains more than twice as high as the citywide rate.

However, more than half of the high schools in that $568 million program — 19 out of 28 — missed the graduation goals the city set for them, according to a New York Times analysis based on preliminary figures.

Graduation rates for students who are still learning English ticked up slightly to 32.5 percent, following a sharp decline the previous year that the state education commissioner called “disturbing.” City officials argue that students who improved enough to shed the designation of “English language learner” in the years before they graduated should also be counted; among that larger group, the graduation rate was 53 percent in 2017.

Meanwhile, the graduation-rate gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers narrowed a smidgen, but it remains wide. Last year, the graduation rate was about 83 percent for white students, 70 percent for black students, and 68 percent for Hispanic students. That represented a closing of the gap between white and black students by 0.4 percentage points, and 0.1 points between whites and Hispanic.

Asian students had the highest rate — 87.5 percent — a nearly 2 point increase from the previous year that widened their lead over other racial groups.

Christina Veiga contributed reporting.

the aftermath

What educators, parents, and students are grappling with in the wake of America’s latest school shooting

Kristi Gilroy (right) hugs a young woman at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

It’s hard to know where to start on days like this.

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead on Wednesday has elicited both terror and anger — and raised debates that are far from settled about how to keep American students safe.

Here are a few storylines we noticed as the country again grapples with a tragic school shooting:

1. You’re not wrong to think it: There have been a lot of mass shootings, and many recent ones have been especially deadly.

Data on school shootings specifically, though, is notoriously murky. As the Atlantic recently noted, varying definitions can contribute to either “sensationalizing or oversimplifying a modern trend of mass violence in America that is seemingly becoming more entrenched.”

But by NBC News’ count, 20 people have been killed and more than 30 have been injured in school shootings this year. That’s a lot — and more news organizations are now trying to keep a careful tally.

2. The consequences of traumatic events like the shooting at Stoneman Douglas are likely to be felt for some time.

A number of studies have found that violent and traumatic events in and outside of school do real damage to student learning, as we’ve reported — particularly among students who are already struggling. Here are some resources for teachers who need to talk to their students about trauma.

3. The tragedy is already renewing debates over whether or how to arm teachers.

Education Week gathered some of those calls from politicians Thursday. “Gun-safety advocates say that teachers can’t safely and quickly move from the mindset of teaching to being asked to fire a gun at an active shooter,” the story also notes.

This doesn’t even get at the debate about whether anyone should have access to the kind of gun the shooter used. Students from the district, for their part, told Broward schools chief Robert Runcie Thursday “that the time is due for a conversation on sensible gun control,” the Miami Herald reported.

Whether other technology and infrastructure can help keep students safe is a topic of ongoing discussion in communities across the country. Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill to help schools buy communications systems that would allow them to talk directly to police and other emergency responders. Officials from districts that already use this equipment described them as a way to increase safety without “turning our schools into prisons,” even as they also assured lawmakers that the radios were just as useful for serious playground injuries and broken-down buses as for the much rarer active shooter situations.

In Tennessee, one school district near Nashville announced plans to close schools next Monday to review all safety plans with school staff and local law enforcement.

4. In some places, the shooting is unlikely to change the school safety debate at all.

In New York City, for example, conversations about school safety in recent years have revolved around discipline policies and metal detectors (though police have seized an increasing number of weapons from city schools). There’s little appetite there to arm teachers.

5. But all across America, the shooting and others like it have added a frightening tone to what it means to teach and learn in schools today.

“I know you are waking up this morning to a nightmare,” a former educator wrote in a “love letters to teachers” on Teaching Tolerance. “I know you are frustrated, tired and weary of the news. I know you are wearing your coat of bravery today.”

“I’m so, so angry and I’m having a hard time today looking at my students and not thinking about what happens when it’s my school’s turn,” wrote one commenter on the Badass Teachers Association Facebook group.

High achievers

Is your school a ‘Reward’ school? Here’s the list of schools honored for their high scores

PHOTO: Flickr
Brooklyn Tech High School was one of this year's "Reward" schools.

More than 60 New York City schools have earned “Reward” status from the state education department for their high test scores or for making strides towards their academic goals.

Schools on the list had to land in the top 20 percent of schools statewide based on their math and English state test scores during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, or be among the top 10 percent of schools based on score growth in 2016-17. High schools must have graduation rates above 80 percent to meet the high-achievement mark, or above 60 percent to qualify as “high progress.”

The schools also had to have at least 95 percent of all student groups take the state tests — a challenge for schools where many families boycotted the exams — and could not have unacceptably large gaps” in achievement between students that belong to historically underperforming groups, such as low-income students, and their peers.

In the past, some Reward schools received federal grants, but that has ended under the new federal education law.

“It’s truly impressive that so many of this year’s Reward Schools were able to maintain the designation for three years in a row,” Commissioner Elia said. “All of these schools serve as models to others in the state to inspire them to achieve a high level of accomplishment and improvement.”

Many of the schools are familiar names on top-performer lists.

Several have selective admissions, allowing them to choose students based on their prior grades or test scores. A few — including Stuyvesant High School and Staten Island Technical High School — are “specialized schools” that admit students solely based on their scores on an entrance exam, which critics say has the effect of excluding many students of color.

This is the last year of the Reward designation, which was a feature of the previous federal education law. Under the new law, New York plans to identify “Recognition” schools, based on “high achievement or rapid improvement,” according to state officials. The exact method for identifying those schools is still being worked out.

Here is this year’s Reward schools:

New York City (64 school)

  • Academy of Finance and Enterprise
  • All City Leadership Secondary School
  • Baccalaureate School for Global Education
  • Ballet Tech/NYC PS for Dance
  • Baruch College Campus High School
  • Bronx High School of Science
  • Brooklyn College Academy
  • Brooklyn School of Inquiry
  • Brooklyn Tech High School
  • East Side Elementary – PS 267
  • East Side Middle School
  • Eleanor Roosevelt High School
  • Fiorello H LaGuardia High School
  • High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies
  • High School of American Studies at Lehman College
  • Leon M Goldstein High School for the Sciences
  • Manhattan Center-Science and Math
  • Manhattan Village Academy
  • Millennium Brooklyn High School
  • Millennium High School
  • MS 243 Center School
  • MS 255 Salk School of Science
  • MS 358
  • New Explorations Science, Technology and Math
  • NYC Lab High School for Collaborative Studies
  • NYC Museum School
  • PS 101 – The Verrazano
  • PS 11 Purvis J Behan
  • PS 110 Florence Nightingale
  • PS 130 Hernando De Soto
  • PS 134
  • PS 150
  • PS 163 Alfred E Smith
  • PS 173 Fresh Meadows
  • PS 184 Shuang Wen
  • PS 195 Manhattan Beach
  • PS 198 Isador E Ida Straus
  • PS 199 Jessie Isador Straus
  • PS 2 Alfred Zimberg
  • PS 212 Midtown West
  • PS 213 The Carl Ullman School
  • PS 247
  • PS 249 – The Caton
  • PS 25 Eubie Blake School
  • PS 26 Jesse Owens
  • PS 26 Rufus King
  • PS 28 – The Warren Prep Academy
  • PS 35 The Clove Valley School
  • PS 39 Henry Bristow
  • PS 397 Foster-Laurie
  • PS 41 Greenwich Village
  • PS 42 Benjamin Altman
  • PS 77 Lower Lab School
  • PS 89
  • PS 96
  • Queens College School for Math, Science and Technology
  • Queens Gateway to Health Science Secondary School
  • Queens High School Science at York College
  • Special Music School
  • Staten Island Tech High School
  • Stuyvesant High School
  • Tag Young Scholars
  • The Academy of Talented Scholars
  • Townsend Harris High School

Rest of the state (73 schools)

  • Akron High School
  • Amherst Central High School
  • Ardsley High School
  • Bayport-Blue Point High School
  • Bethpage Senior High School
  • Briarcliff High School
  • Brighton High School
  • Bronxville Elementary School
  • Caledonia-Mumford High School
  • Clarkstown South Senior High School
  • Clinton Senior High School
  • Colonial School
  • Columbia High School
  • Croton-Harmon High School
  • Dobbs Ferry High School
  • Earl L Vandermeulen High School
  • East Aurora High School
  • Eastchester Senior High School
  • Fayetteville-Manlius Senior High School
  • Garden City High School
  • Great Neck South High School
  • Haldane High School
  • Half Hollow Hills High School East
  • Half Hollow Hills High School West
  • Harborfields High School
  • Harrison High School
  • Hastings High School
  • Herricks High School
  • Honeoye Falls-Lima Senior High School
  • Iroquois Senior High School
  • Irvington High School
  • Jamesville-Dewitt High School
  • Jericho Senior High School
  • John F Kennedy High School
  • Keene Central School
  • Lansing High School
  • Locust Valley High School
  • Lynbrook Senior High School
  • Maine-Endwell Senior High School
  • Manhasset Secondary School
  • Maple Hill High School
  • Mt Sinai High School
  • Murray Avenue School
  • Nanuet Senior High School
  • New Hartford Senior High School
  • North Shore Senior High School
  • Owego Free Academy
  • Pelham Memorial High School
  • Penfield Senior High School
  • Pittsford-Mendon High School
  • Plainview-Old Bethpage/JFK High School
  • Pleasantville High School
  • Rebecca Turner Elementary School
  • Rhinebeck Senior High School
  • Ripley Central School
  • Roslyn High School
  • Rush-Henrietta Senior High School
  • Rye Neck Senior High School
  • Sayville High School
  • Shaker High School
  • Skaneateles Senior High School
  • Smithtown High School-West
  • Somers Senior High School
  • South Side High School
  • Spackenkill High School
  • Syosset Senior High School
  • Todd Elementary School
  • Vestal Senior High School
  • W Tresper Clarke High School
  • Walter Panas High School
  • Wantagh Senior High School
  • Williamsville East High School
  • Yorktown High School

Charter schools (18 schools)

  • Academy of The City Charter School
  • Achievement First Apollo Charter
  • Achievement First Bushwick Charter
  • Beginning with Children Charter II
  • Bronx Charter School Better Learning
  • Hellenic Classical Charter School
  • Icahn Charter School 2
  • Icahn Charter School 3
  • Icahn Charter School 5
  • Icahn Charter School 6
  • Imagine Me Leadership Charter School
  • Rochdale Early Advantage Charter School
  • South Bronx Classical Charter School
  • Success Academy Charter School – Bronx 2
  • Success Academy Charter School – Cobble Hill
  • Success Academy Charter School – Harlem 2
  • Success Academy Charter School – Harlem 4
  • Success Academy Charter School – Williamsburg