Analyst: Derek Kulnis
March 5 2017
New York City’s high school graduation rate topped 70 percent for the first time, according to data recently released by the state Department of Education. The state’s overall high school graduation rate continued to climb, and reached 79.4 percent of students who earned a diploma after four years.
Education Week notes that “Syracuse posted a 6.4 percent increase, to 61 percent, while the other so-called Big Five school districts of Buffalo, Rochester and Yonkers had graduation rates of 61.7 percent, 47.5 percent and 77.5 percent, respectively.”
Elizabeth Harris explains in The New York Times that “while 88 percent of white students graduated on time last year, only 65 percent of black and Hispanic students did, and only about 50 percent of students with disabilities did.”
Harris goes on to explain that “a double-digit gap remained in city schools: 85 percent of Asian students graduated, as did 82 percent of whites, while black and Hispanic students graduated at a rate of 65.4 percent and 64 percent.” She explained that “each group did see gains, with Hispanic students showing the biggest increase, at 2.5 percentage points.”
There have been significant changes to state graduation requirements in recent years, including raising the scores of the five Regents exams that students must pass in order to graduate from 55 to 65.
The state has also changed which Regents exams count as acceptable, and that “instead of requiring students to pass one Regents exam in math, English, science and two in social studies, the Regents said in 2014 that students could swap the second social studies exam for an approved alternative, like a language exam or an assessment of vocational skills, such as accounting or hospitality management,” according to Harris.
Critics of the graduation statistics cite racial disparities in the graduation rates as cause for concern, and also note that the rate for English language learners experienced a precipitous decline.
Alex Zimmerman and Monica Disare in Chalkbeat New York explain that “in New York City, just 27 percent of current English learners graduated, a 9.6 percent decrease over the previous year. They also note that “the dropout rate for that group in city schools increased from 21.6 percent to 27 percent.”
Despite the concerns, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio stated that the dropout rate fell to the lowest level ever in the city at 8.5 percent, and that he hoped that by 2020 the city could reach the goal of having 80 percent of students graduate high school.
According to a 2014 article in Governing magazine by Chris Kardish, the U.S. high school graduation rate reached 80 percent for the first time ever “and is on track to reach a long-sought goal of 90 percent by 2020.”
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