Dropouts

getting to graduation

Politics & Policy

New York

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.