Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today that the four-year graduation rate for New York City public schools rose to a new all-time high of 65.1 percent in 2010, according to the State Education Department. All ethnic groups saw gains last year, with black and Hispanic students – who make up roughly 70 percent of the school system – continuing to narrow the achievement gap with their white and Asian counterparts.
The graduation rate reached 60.6 percent for black students and 58.2 percent for Hispanic students, both increases of more than 20 points since 2005. Across all ethnic groups, more students also earned Regents and Advanced Regents diplomas – crucial measures of college readiness, and increasingly important, as the City now holds schools accountable for how well they prepare students for life after high school.
“These new high school graduation rates are proof positive that the reforms we’ve adopted and the investments we’ve made are paying off in a big way,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “I’m proud of our students, teachers, principals and parents for achieving this all-time high graduation rate, and the fact that black and Hispanic students are reaching new milestones is great news for our City.”
The overall gains are evidence that the City’s strategy of replacing low-performing schools with new, smaller schools has worked: schools created since 2002 have an average graduation rate of 65.7 percent, compared with 46.1 percent for schools the City decided to phase out. The Mayor and Chancellor were joined by Council of School Supervisors & Administrators President Ernest Logan for the announcement at the Harry Van Arsdale Educational Campus, a campus of three new schools created to replace the former Harry Van Arsdale High School. Together the new schools have an average graduation rate of 82.9 percent, 38 percentage points higher than Harry Van Arsdale High School reported in 2002.
“For the thousands of students who graduated in 2010, a large majority of them now in college, today is a tribute to their hard work and sacrifice,” said Chancellor Walcott. “It’s also a testament to the support provided by their teachers, principals, and families – and to the new school models that gave students attention and guidance they might not have otherwise received.”
“I congratulate our school leaders, teachers and students on these improved high school graduation rates, which show that we’re moving towards, though not yet achieving, a high level of college readiness,” said Council of School Supervisors & Administrators President Ernest Logan. “The full implementation of the Common Core State Standards – including high levels of professional development for our school leaders and teachers – will get us where we need to go and I encourage the DOE to continue to work on the Common Core.”
“Kudos to our public school graduates, Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Walcott and all of our hard-working teachers and dedicated parents and guardians for these very encouraging graduation rates,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “These are successes we can really build on as we work to ensure that all of our students – from K through 12 – reach the zenith of their potential.”
“All our discussion and debate on education – it’s about wanting our kids to succeed, to be happy and to be able to support themselves and their families,” said Assemblymember Joseph Lentol. “These graduation rates indicate we are moving in that direction. I know the Mayor and Chancellor agree that there is no one way to accomplish that. So, the challenge is to keep trying, adjusting, and recalibrating our programs and tests. We are making progress as we continue to formulate a system that allows as much instructional flexibility as possible, while maintaining high expectations for our students and our educators.”
“I’m happy to see that graduation rates throughout New York City are rising,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “While we still have work to do to ensure that all public school students are given the tools they need to achieve, this is a significant step in the right direction.”
This year, the State also reported two numbers for each school district, in addition to official graduation rates, which it called Aspirational Performance Measures. The first measure, which equals the percentage of students earning an Advanced Regents Diploma, is 16.4 percent for New York City, up from 12.5 percent in 2005. The second measure, the percentage of students who entered high school in 2006 and scored a 75 or higher on their English Language Arts Regents and an 80 or higher on their Math Regents, was 21.4 percent (21.9 percent including August graduates) – an increase of 8.1 percentage points since 2005.
In the past two years, the Department of Education has increased focus on the rigor of instruction and the importance of new, richer assessments that can measure whether students are on track to succeed after high school. In 100 schools across the city this year, teachers have been introducing the new Common Core Standards to expose children to more writing, nonfiction texts, and critical thinking. Just last week, Chancellor Walcott articulated a set of instructional expectations that will require all New York City public schools students to try at least one literacy task, and one math task, aligned with the new standards. Although these new standards will not be part of state assessments until 2014-15, the City has begun to prepare its schools far in advance.
Over the past nine years, New York City has pursued a strategy of replacing its lowest-performing schools with new, often smaller, schools. New schools, on average, serve the same general population, but have performed at a level higher than the citywide average – and 20 points higher than schools the City has decided to phase out. A phase-out occurs over the course of multiple years, as a school stops accepting additional grades one year at a time.
Since 2005, when the State began using its current methodology to calculate graduation rates, New York City’s June graduation rate has risen by 14.5 points. In that same period, the dropout rate has fallen nearly 10 points from 22 percent to 12.1 percent, while discharges have remained steady –a sign that the upward trend in graduation rates represents a genuine, and significant, rise in student achievement. In all, 4,678 more students graduated in 2010 than did in 2009.
In addition to achieving their highest-ever graduation rates of 60.6 and 58.2 percent, respectively, black and Hispanic students also managed to close the achievement gap with white students – by 2.4 percentage points for black students and by 2.1 points for Hispanic students. Since 2005, the black-white achievement gap has closed by 6.3 percentage points, while the Hispanic-white achievement gap has closed by 6.6 points. Similarly, black students have closed the gap with Asian students by 4.4 points since 2005; while the gap between Hispanic and Asian students has narrowed by 4.7 percentage points.
The four-year graduation rates for English language learners – who represent 14.3 percent of the city’s public school student population – and students with disabilities – who make up 16.2 percent of the system – also saw increases last year: from 44.4 percent to 46.1 percent for English language learners; and from 26.6 percent to 30.7 percent for students with disabilities. Moreover, the percentage of English language learners earning a Regents diploma jumped from 16.2 percent to 21.7 percent last year; while the percentage of students with disabilities earning a Regents diploma rose from 8.2 percent to 10.5 percent. Both groups face significant challenges while they work to satisfy the State’s graduation requirements, making their recent accomplishments particularly remarkable.