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March 9, 2010
City graduation rate rises for fifth year in a row, to 59 percent
PHOTO: Sarah GlenSource: New York State Education Department New York City’s graduation rates have increased for the fifth time in as many years. The 4-year…
December 17, 2009
DPS graduation, college-going rates rise
More Denver Public Schools students are graduating from high school and going to college, according to figures released Thursday about the Class of 2009.
July 22, 2009
Comptroller-DOE feud takes center stage at audit announcement
Comptroller William Thompson is releasing his second education audit in two days right now, this time focusing on testing conditions and oversight in the city schools. Also for the second time in two days, the comptroller has barred a Department of Education spokesman from his announcement. Today's audit exposes "major flaws in testing by the New York City Department of Education," Thompson's office said in a press announcement this morning. But the audit says, "Our observations conducted at the sample schools on the day of testing did not reveal any instances of cheating." Today's report is already drawing some of the same criticism from the city as yesterday's audit, about how city schools qualify students for graduation. That audit found sloppy record-keeping at many city schools but no clear evidence of grade-tampering. City officials charged that Thompson conducted the graduation audit for political, rather than professional, reasons. As the city comptroller, Thompson's job is to audit official city statistics. But he is also the main challenger to Mayor Bloomberg's reelection bid. DOE press chief David Cantor leveled the first complaints about today's audit just minutes after the press conference began — a press conference that he was not attending after being kicked out by a member of Thompson's staff.
July 21, 2009
Lost in the political war, modest but real grad rate concerns
The accelerating 2009 mayoral campaign is distracting from real information inside an audit of city graduation rates released by the city comptroller's office today. In fact, the audit is neither as damning as Bill Thompson Jr., the comptroller and mayoral hopeful, is claiming — nor as unequivocally rosy as the Bloomberg administration says. Thompson said the audit suggests that principals and teachers responded to pressure to raise graduation rates by falsifying student records. "The New York City Department of Education has become the Enron of American education, showing the gains and hiding the losses," he said at a press conference today. But the audit found no evidence of tampering. Thompson's declaration about fudging numbers came in remarks to reporters, not the official audit. "Is it just about sloppy bookkeeping or sloppy record-keeping? I don't think so," he said. He added, "This is a case where you can read between the lines." The audit also concludes that only 2 out of 206 randomly selected graduates, or 1%, did not deserve their diplomas. That's quite different than the 10% figure being widely reported. Auditors initially challenged 19 graduates, or 10%, but threw out the concerns about 17 of them after school officials provided documents showing they earned their diplomas. And 11 of the 19 had overall grade averages of 80% or better, according to the audit.
July 16, 2009
Fernandez: More city grads lacked basic skills under Bloomberg
Dolores Fernandez, the Bronx's appointee to the re-formed Board of Education, appearing on BronxTalk. Graduates of the city's public high schools are falling so behind in reading and math that a community college remediation program doubled in size between 1998 and 2008, the college's former president said this week. Dolores Fernandez, who resigned from Hostos Community College last year is now serving as the Bronx borough president's appointee to the re-formed Board of Education, made the remarks in an interview on a Bronx television news program, BronxTalk. "I would have loved for the New York City public schools to put my remediation programs out of business, because that would mean that every kid graduating out of the schools could read, write, and do math," Fernandez said. Fernandez said that a hiking up of standards at CUNY's four-year colleges played some part in the growth of Hostos's remediation program. "But then you still have the regular group of kids who just are coming to us in need of a GED diploma, because they haven't graduated from the public schools, and when we get them, we're basically teaching them reading, writing, and math — I mean, basic levels," she said. The gloomy picture challenges Bloomberg's own claims about the public schools, which state figures show now graduate far more students since 2002. But Fernandez said she does not trust these figures as a fair picture of what is really happening, especially for the poor Latino community she served at Hostos Community College. You can watch the interview in the full two parts below. UPDATE: Department of Education spokesman Andrew Jacob points out in the comments section that a growing remediation program does not mean that more city students are struggling. His argument: the size of the program doesn’t tell you anything about the percentage of graduates who required remediation, because the number of public school graduates enrolling at CUNY community colleges has risen dramatically in recent years–70% between 2002 and 2008. Among Hispanic public school graduates, enrollment doubled over that same time period. With this many more students enrolling, of course the remediation program would expand, even if the percentage of graduates needing remediation fell. And, in fact, that percentage has fallen across all CUNY community colleges, from 82 percent in 2002 to 74 percent in 2008. Among all CUNY colleges, the remediation rate for public school graduates has fallen from 58% to 51%.
June 22, 2009
Graduation rates are up and officials forecast an even rosier future
Mayor Bloomberg announced today that New York's graduation rates are on the rise for the seventh consecutive year. According to Department of Education data the city's four-year graduation rate climbed from nearly 53 percent in 2007 to over 56 percent in 2008. The nearly 4-percentage point jump refers to students who started ninth grade in 2004 and graduated in 2008. The percentage of students graduating from the city's public schools fell short of the statewide average of roughly 71 percent. But New York City's rates were higher compared to those in major cities like Buffalo and Syracuse. Calling the rate increase "dramatic," Mayor Bloomberg declared it a victory for the 2002 law that centralized the city's school governance. The law is set to sunset on June 30. "The bottom line is, all signs are pointing in the right direction," Bloomberg said. "And I think everybody understands that mayoral control really has been the key to all of this."
June 22, 2009
Regents consider preserving the less-rigorous "local" diploma
The state's top education policymakers are considering scrapping a plan to raise high school graduation standards, a Board of Regents member told me today. The rethinking comes in response to data showing that one-third of black and Hispanic students who graduate from high school today would not graduate if the state raised its standards. It also comes as the new Regents chancellor, Merryl Tisch, has been vowing to raise standards. Tisch recently traveled to a Chicago conference where 46 states vowed their support for common standards across the country. She did not return a request for comment this afternoon. State school officials had said they would get rid of what are known as "local" diplomas, less rigorous versions of the more prestigious Regents diplomas, beginning with students who entered ninth-grade this year. While students must score 65 out of 100 on state subject exams to earn a Regents diploma, they can now score 55 and graduate with a local diploma. But Regent Betty Rosa, of the Bronx, told me that the board is considering scrapping that plan, which she said was never a foregone conclusion. "I think some people thought it was, but there’s been some concern on both sides of the equations," Rosa said. Mayor Bloomberg said he favors getting rid of the local diploma at a press conference today where he announced the latest graduation rate:
June 22, 2009
A first look at graduation rate numbers: Up, up, up
The state Education Department has released graduation rate data on its website; find all the Power Points and spreadsheets here. The New York…
June 22, 2009
State to release graduation rates today; city boasting 4-point rise
Graduation data for students who entered high school in 2004 will be released today, the State Education Department has announced. The city will announce that its graduation rate jumped four points, according to the New York Post. A gain of that magnitude would outstrip the increases of the last few years and would bring the city's official graduation rate to 56 percent. City officials were hinting at an increase last week: Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told an audience that he had looked at internal third- and fourth-year data for many of the city's new small high schools and seen continued gains. "The results are consistently higher," he said, adding that the rate was continuing to inch upward at large high schools as well. Asked about graduation rate and dropout trends, the department's data czar Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger told the City Council on Thursday, "We certainly expect rates to rise and everything else to go down."
June 18, 2009
Grad rates could fall under new rules, but officials aren't worried
Image courtesy of the ##http://www.newschool.edu/milano/nycaffairs/##Center for New York City Affairs## The City Council's education committee this morning is taking up concerns that the city could be in for a rude awakening in the coming years as high school graduation requirements become more stringent. In the past, students could opt for either of two diploma types: The local diploma requires scores of at least 55 on five state Regents exams, while the more challenging Regents diploma requires those scores to be 65 or higher. Starting with this year's ninth-graders, all students will have to earn Regents diplomas. Some advocates are warning that the state's new requirement could slash the city's graduation rate, particularly for needy students. They point out that if that requirement had been in place five years ago, the city's graduation rate would stand at just 37 percent.
June 17, 2009
Klein: Small high schools still succeeding, and more are coming
The high school report released today shows that the Gates Foundation's support for small schools was worthwhile, according to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. His statement contrasts with the foundation's own evaluation of its small schools spending, which it said last year had not produced the academic gains it had hoped. Bill Gates himself said in November that while New York City's small schools have done better than others his foundation started, the schools still do not adequately prepare students for college. Delivering introductory remarks before a panel discussion about small schools this morning, Klein said the Center for New York City Affairs report "confirms the work of the Gates Foundation," which provided much of the funding that allowed the city to open small schools. Today's report "carefully documents" that the schools have gotten better results than the large schools they replaced, Klein said — and with the same type of students, contrary to the charges by critics who say the small schools' students start off better prepared. (In the schools' early years, they enrolled students who were slightly less at-risk, but they now admit their fair share of overage students, students with disabilities, and students who are learning English, the report concludes.) Despite his generally favorable review, Klein disputed some of the report's findings, especially around graduation rates.
April 30, 2009
Saying discharges are up, report demands grad rate audit
Six years after Schools Chancellor Joel Klein vowed to crack down on a bureaucratic loophole that allowed principals to hide students' failure to graduate high school, a new report (PDF) suggests that the loophole remains open and may be growing wider. The report calls for closer study of the students classified as "discharges" — departures from the system, but not dropouts — through steps including a state audit. The report says that 21 percent of students who entered high school in 2003 both never graduated and were never counted as dropouts, instead falling into a category known as "discharges." The percentage was up from 17.5 percent among the Class of 2000. The rate is especially high among special education students, and includes a remarkable jump in 2005, when the special education discharge rate shot up to 36 percent from 23 percent in a single year. Students classified as discharges can include those who left the school system for legitimate reasons, such as moving to another state, deciding to enroll in an outside G.E.D. program, or death. But some advocates have argued that principals can also misuse the discharge code, entering students who simply dropped out in order to inflate their graduation rate artificially. A recent audit of 12 high schools in New York State by the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, found that high schools classified students as G.E.D. discharges who did not actually enroll in a G.E.D. program. "As a result," DiNapoli's audit concluded, "the report cards understated the number and percentage of dropouts and overstated the percentage of graduates for some of the schools we reviewed." The audit did not probe any New York City high schools. Two persistent critics of the Bloomberg administration compiled the report: the executive director of Class Size Matters, Leonie Haimson, and a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, Jennifer Jennings. Jennings was the author of the now-defunct Eduwonkette blog, whose analysis of New York City education data became (as I reported) a thorn in the Bloomberg administration's side. The report is being released at a press conference this morning held by a third critic, the city's public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum. City school officials were already disputing the report's claims yesterday, before it had been released.
March 17, 2009
New warring memos dispute ELLs' performance under Klein
The city Department of Education today heralded performance gains among students who are considered English language learners in a new report about how those students have fared under Chancellor Joel Klein's leadership. The tone of the report and its accompanying press release is very different from the tone of Friday's mayoral control hearing in the Bronx, where numerous speakers complained that the department has paid too little attention to ELL students. The report declares that Klein and Mayor Bloomberg have built a "stronger system-wide infrastructure" to support English language learners, and says that the efforts are "starting to bear fruit." More than 29% of fourth-graders met English standards in 2008, compared to 4% in 2003; 64% met math standards in 2008, up from 36% in 2003. The report cautions that middle school test scores and graduation rates are not as rosy, but points out that former English language learners — students who once received help in learning English but have since tested proficient at English — are out-performing even non-ELL students. The report paints a very different picture from the one presented at the Bronx hearing Friday.
February 4, 2009
A venerable welfare agency says mayoral control could help kids
Most supporters of mayoral control list similar reasons for why they prefer the governance structure: it consolidates accountability in a single person; it reduces corruption that can proliferate in a decentralized system. But there's also a less prominent argument: that mayoral control could facilitate a new breed of full-service schools that tackle both poverty and low academic achievement. Teachers union president Randi Weingarten made this argument last year when she said mayors could create "community schools" by linking city agencies in innovative ways. But I hadn't heard it again until today, when I spoke with Katherine Eckstein, a public policy expert who works at the Children's Aid Society, one of the city's oldest social services agencies. "When kids are hungry or depressed, or have no place to go, or have chronic medical problems, they have no way to take advantage of opportunities put before them," she told me. Eckstein, the public policy director for the organization's National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools, said many services exist that can help students deal with such issues, but they are not always effectively delivered. "I see this as the promise of mayoral control — harnessing the power of city agencies," she said, adding that the Children's Aid Society plans to promote this idea as the debate over mayoral control's future picks up.
February 4, 2009
Predicting grad rate crisis, report calls for focus on high schools
If the graduation requirements in effect for this year's ninth-graders had applied to students who entered high school five years ago, the city's graduation rate would be just 37 percent. The new, more stringent requirements could cause the city's graduation rate, which has only recently topped 50 percent, to plummet, advocates say in a new report (pdf) about what they call a "looming crisis" for the city schools. The report, prepared by the Coalition for Educational Justice, a parent group, details how poor and minority students could suffer most under the new rules. Beginning with this year's freshman class, all high school students will have to earn what's called a Regents diploma by scoring 65 or higher on five different state exams. Until now, the state has allowed students who scored between 55 and 64 on any of the tests to graduate with a less rigorous diploma. The less rigorous diploma, called a local diploma, has been the most common type earned by city students. At a press conference on the steps of the Department of Education this morning, CEJ and dozens of other advocates called for an emergency working group of state and city education officials to focus on how to help schools where few students are on track to graduate with Regents diplomas.
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