Less than a quarter of the students who graduate from high school in New York are prepared for either college or a well-paying job, according to a report released this week by New York State education officials.
In New York City, roughly 75 percent of public high school students who enroll in community colleges needed to take remedial math or English courses before they could begin collegelevel work.
Last year, Mayor Bloomberg was thrilled to announce that the graduation rate in city high schools rose to 59 percent in 2009, up from 56.4 percent recorded in 2008.
But a closer look at the city’s graduation rate reveals that it’s a rather false barometer of the performance of high schools and their students. For one, the reported increase did not roll over to students in the African-American and Latino communities, as their graduation rates remain abysmally low. Despite the glaring educational gap that exists, few in city government seem willing to trumpet that over an “increasing” overall graduation rate.
How the graduation rate is determined by the city’s Department of Education is also flawed. To come up with the rate, the DOE divides students who leave school into two categories. The first are known as “dropouts,” including teenagers who leave school to work full-time; children who stop going to school and cannot be tracked down; those who enroll in a non-DOE training program; and those who enter the military.
The second category is dubbed “discharged students,” and according to DOE guidelines, they are not even included when calculating dropout rates. Among those considered to be “discharged students” are pupils who voluntarily dropped out due to pregnancy after they turned 17; were forced out when they turned 21; faced expulsion; enrolled in a GED program; transferred to a school outside the New York public school system; joined a program for new mothers; or were institutionalized.
Like a “falling” unemployment rate—which doesn’t take into account those who are underemployed or who have given up looking for work—the city’s “increasing” graduation rate is little more than a polished statistic politicians like to brag about.
Despite the calculations and the spin, there is an army of young people in this city who never complete their high school education, much less think of going on to higher studies, with or without remedial assistance.
What are these kids going to do for a living? Back in the day, these youngsters filled the factories and light manufacturing plants that proliferated the New York area. The jobs offered them a living wage and a chance for advancement without having the requirement of a college degree or a high school diploma. But those jobs are gone.
Moreover, in keeping with the concept of not raising the bridge and instead lowering the water, the Board of Regents is toying with the idea of changing the requirements to make it easier for high school students to achieve a Regents Diploma. If this dumbing down continues, the Regents Exam might soon consist of naming the cast of clowns on Jersey Shore.
Lower standards, combined with false statistics of educational success, are a disservice to this state’s children. As long as this trend keeps up, they will continue to fall further and further behind their national and international peers. The madness must stop; our students must be challenged to succeed.
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