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Low Graduation Rate of Area Students Shocks Many

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New York City students are having an awfully tough time finishing high school, according to state Education Department findings.Agency data shows that throughout the state, just 64 percent of students who started ninth grade in 2001 graduated after four years.For teens who began their freshman year in 2000, 71 percent graduated in five years.“Sixty-four percent graduate in four years. That is a disturbing number. It is unacceptable,” said State Education Commissioner Richard Mills.City Department of Education (DOE) Spokesperson Alicia Maxey said city officials are just as alarmed by the figures.“We agree with the state that either of these numbers is concerning,” she said.The state Education Department recorded the city’s graduation rate as 43.5 percent.That was questionable to some since the DOE reported that the city has a graduation rate of 53.2 percent.The DOE’s figure is higher because, as a department source explained, when doing calculations, the agency includes the number of students who graduate after attending summer school, and those who earn General Equivalency Degrees (GED). The DOE also factors in graduation rates of some special education students.Regardless of discrepancies in the state’s and city’s numbers, to boost graduation rates, the DOE is “focusing on middle schools to ensure that all of our students enter high school capable of doing Regents-level work,” Maxey said.That focus is because many of the students who entered the ninth grade in 2000 and 2001 were unprepared for the difficulty of high school classes and Regents exams, which students must pass to graduate, the report shows.The state Education Department said that was because higher academic standards were not implemented in elementary and middle schools – namely, tougher fourth and eighth grade curriculums and end-of-the-year standardized exams for those grades – until after these 2005 high school graduates completed those important years.The state’s study documented the students’ struggles with Regents exams.Statewide, the majority of students who graduated from high school in 2005 passed the tests with scores of at least 55 percent. This earned them local diplomas and not the prestigious Regents diplomas, which require passing grades of at least 65 percent.According to state figures, city teens are less likely to graduate than students in upstate New York or Long Island.Of city students who started high school in 2000 and graduated in five years, Regents or local diplomas were earned by 55.1 percent of teens – compared to 85.3 percent of students throughout the rest of the state.Also raising eyebrows, the study shows that African-American and Hispanic students are less likely than Caucasians and Asian-Americans to graduate after five years.As noted in the report, white students have an 83.3 percent chance of graduating, followed by Asian-Americans with 75.7 percent.For Black and Hispanic students, the figures are 52.6 percent and 49.4 percent, respectively.To ensure that the number of students successfully completing high school increases, the state Education Department has created a list of nearly 130 schools with low graduation rates, which officials will monitor.City schools reportedly accounted for 80 percent of these schools.Making the list is Franklin K. Lane High School, 999 Jamaica Avenue.The school has a 30 percent graduation rate.Also on the list is Lafayette High School.Located at 2630 Benson Avenue, the school has a graduation rate of 34 percent.Comparisons of graduation rates like these are necessary so educators – and the public – can see what school programs and initiatives work and which ones fall short, Mills said.“Reforms, so far, have improved results in elementary and middle grades, promising higher achievement in high school in the future,” he said. “But it is critical that we take action to change high school now.”

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