HS dropout rate in city jumps to 20.4% in 2001

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If you like brain-teasers, you’ll have a good time piecing together the puzzle that is the city’s high school dropout rate.

Simply put, the citywide dropout rate for students in the class of 2001 — teens who entered city schools in fall 1997 and were expected to graduate by summer 2001 — was 20.4 percent, the Board of Education announced last week. The dropout rate increased this year by 1.1 percent from the class of 2000, which had a 19.3 percent dropout rate overall.

After that, things get a bit more complicated.

Traditional high schools in each borough are assigned their own dropout rates. In Queens, the class of 2001 in traditional high schools had a 5.7 percent dropout rate, Board of Ed figures show.

But anyone looking for a true picture of the Queens dropout rate is also forced to consider how students performed in more than a half dozen alternative high school programs offered by the city.

The programs range from General Equivalency Diploma schools to schools for pregnant teens, specialized chancellor’s schools and retrieval programs, to name a few of the nine programs listed by the Board of Ed in its report on dropout rates. It is unclear how many Queens schools or students are included among these programs.

Complicating the puzzle is the Board of Ed’s tendency to count its students twice when considering dropout and graduation rates.

When asked about the dropout rate confusion, Board of Ed spokesman Kevin Ortiz was quick to point out the city’s graduation rate, which was also on the rise.

The city’s dropout and graduation rates are increasing at the same time, Ortiz said, because students are considered more than once in the calculations: if a teenager drops out but later earns a G.E.D. or Regents-endorsed diploma, that teen is included in both rates.

Things do not get any simpler looking at traditional high schools alone.

According to Board of Ed figures, 4,054 out of 71,645 Queens students dropped out between fall 1997 and summer 2001, with the highest drop out rates seen in Newcomers High School in Long Island City and Franklin K. Lane High School in Ozone Park.

At Newcomers, 980 students registered in the class of 2001 and 96 dropped out, resulting in a 9.8 percent dropout rate.

But can Newcomers High School, which welcomes recent immigrants who often do not speak English and sometimes leave the school after only a year, be considered a “traditional” high school?

Similarly, the borough’s Young Adults Learning Center, a Queens-wide school in Corona designed for at-risk older students, is listed among “traditional” high schools.

At the Corona school, 73.1 percent, or 201 of the 275 students dropped out, the Board of Ed said.

Franklin K. Lane High School, in Ozone Park on the Queens-Brooklyn border, also had an elevated dropout rate. Of the school’s 3,164 students, 299 — or 9.5 percent — in the Class of 2001 dropped out.

Not all the dropout rates in Queens are high.

Board of Ed figures show Tow nsend Harris High School in Flushing has a 0.4 percent dropout rate, while the Academy of American Studies in Long Island City had a 1.3 percent dropout rate and Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica had a 1.7 percent dropout rate.

Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside has perhaps the greatest accomplishment under its belt.

Board of Ed figures show Cardozo, usually a top performing school, has one of the largest classes of 2001 with 4,138 students.

Only Newtown High School in Elmhurst, with 4,631 students, and William C. Bryant High School in Long Island City, with 4,061 students, have more than Cardozo.

At 1.5 percent, Cardozo has not only the lowest dropout rate of the three schools but one of the lowest dropout rates of any school in the borough.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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