audit findings

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New York

Comptroller finds city underreported high school drop-outs

City school officials have underreported the number of students who dropped out of high school in the past by reclassifying some of them, according to a report released by the State Comptroller today. The report, which comes out of an audit completed by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office in January, examines a group of students that are labeled as "discharged," meaning they have left the school system for legitimate reasons, such as moving to another state or deciding to enroll in a G.E.D. program. It finds that some of these students should actually have been labeled as drop-outs, but because of paperwork errors or school officials' failure to follow state regulations in certain cases, they were counted as discharged. Students who are discharged don't count towards the city's drop-out rate and some advocates have argued that principals can misuse the discharge code, entering students who simply dropped out in order to inflate their graduation rate artificially. Overall, the comptroller's report found that even with the improper discharge classifications taken into account, the city's graduation rate was "generally accurate." To determine whether the city's Department of Education was improperly classifying drop-outs as discharges, auditors in the comptroller's office examined the records of students who started high school in 2004 and should have graduated in 2008, but were discharged along the way. They randomly chose 500 of the 17,025 general education students who were discharged and 100 of the 1,923 discharged special education students.
New York

To challenge mayor on schools, Thompson cites Diane Ravitch

Comptroller and mayoral candidate William Thompson Jr. (Via Azi's Flickr.) Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is also a candidate for mayor, ended his appearance on NY1's "Road to City Hall" last night with the clearest preview yet of how he will challenge Mayor Bloomberg on the schools front. He will quote Diane Ravitch. Thompson cited Ravitch, the NYU education historian who has emerged as a prime critic of the mayor's education efforts, after host Dominic Carter painted a picture of how Bloomberg is likely to portray the comptroller in campaign ads. Carter imagined ads that would single out the comptroller's tenure as president of the Board of Education, in a pitch to associate Thompson with the days before mayoral control of the schools, which the mayor has characterized as dismal. Thompson replied by challenging Bloomberg's portrait of the city schools' progress since 2002. He said that the "eminent" Ravitch has shown that test scores went up just as much before Bloomberg took office as they did when Thompson served as Board of Education president. (He served in that role from 1996 to 2001.) A spokesman for Thompson today sent me to this Ravitch quotation as evidence. The key sentence: The gains under Crew and Levy from 1999-2002 were larger on the state tests in both reading and math than under Klein from 2003-2007. I reached Ravitch by telephone today. She told me that she was surprised to hear herself cited by Thompson. (Like me, she happened to be watching NY1 at just the right moment last night — though probably unlike me, in her case the timing of "Gossip Girl" had little to do with that.) "I’m not involved in his campaign or anyone else’s campaign," Ravitch told me. "I don’t do politics. I haven’t been politically active since the Hubert Humphrey campaign in 1968."