Numbers Rising, But No Cause for Celebration

On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and new Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott patted themselves on the back for a record high graduation rate for public school children: 65 percent.

Is this a number we should be celebrating? Yes, there have been drastic improvements in the city’s graduation rates since 2005, but it should be obvious to everyone that much more work needs to be done.

There are more pressing numbers the city would rather we forget. According to studies, nearly 75 percent of city students who graduate high school and attend a city community college required remedial education. And according to the state’s records, only 21.4 percent of city students are college ready. (The state judges anyone who scores 75 or higher on the English Regents and scores 80 or higher on the Math Regents to be college ready.)

Bloomberg did not mention the damaging number in his prepared remarks on Tuesday, but when asked by reporters he conceded the city had a long way to go.

The New York Times reported in May that a suspicious amount of students were passing Regents exams with the lowest possible scores. Teachers are allowed to re-grade exams to ensure a scoring error would not prevent a student from graduating. However, according to the Times, schools may have been using the policy to boost graduation rates. A teacher from the Bronx confided to the newspaper that school administrators made her reread any test with a borderline score.

After viewing this suspicious pattern, the state Department of Education has told schools to end the practice. And if teachers are not allowed to rescore Regents next year, the city’s graduation rate could plummet.

Bloomberg has clearly made education a priority, and The Forum applauds him for that. The importance of a quality education cannot be understated. But according to polls, most residents believe mayoral control of schools has not worked. Touting a flawed statistic of graduation rates will not change their minds.

Bloomberg should only tout the city’s progress in education when graduation rates begin reaching statewide rates (73 percent) and when more than one in five students are college ready.


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