Report Cards Out — New York Schools Show Progress in Student Achievement but Graduation Rates in Trouble

By Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

The spring 2006 statewide report cards for New York schools show that more schools are making progress in meeting their achievement goals for improvement in English and mathematics, as mandated by the state. Though achieving standards in middle school English is still a problem, fewer students have serious academic problems at the elementary and middle school levels, while more of these students are demonstrating higher standards in mathematics.

The performance of the elementary and middle schools has improved significantly. For example, the percentage of students meeting all standards almost doubled from 22 percent in year 2000 to 41 percent in 2005. The percentage of fourth graders with serious academic problems declined from 19 percent in year 2000 to only eight percent in 2005.

At the high school level, 64 percent of the students in the Class of 2005 graduated in a four-year period. More students are graduating each year and more are earning Regents Diplomas, but the graduation rate still is too low.

The New York schools report cards also showed a correlation between attendance and graduation rates. When attendance falls below 92 percent, the graduation rate declines significantly.  When attendance is below 88 percent, the graduation rate plummets.

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills believes the graduation rate is much too low. Though student achievement is improving, Mills believes that new reforms are needed to improve the graduation rates of the future New York schools classes. 

During the next few months, the New York schools will take a series of aggressive actions to solve the problem. Actions under consideration are:

  • Set both graduation and attendance goals, measuring the results annually, and raising the levels each year;
  • Hold each school accountable for meeting the targeted goals in both graduation and attendance by accelerating the Schools Under Registration Review (SURR) requirements;
  • Reform current teaching standards by requiring all teachers to teach only in their certified areas by a certain date; and
  • Monitor safety plans and violent incident data, and requiring reforms to ensure a safe learning environment for both students and teachers.

Additionally, the New York schools have partially completed a student record system, giving each student a unique statewide identifier.  In the future, the identifiers will ensure that each student is counted within the school report cards. This allows for a more accurate measurement of a school’s progress and student achievement.

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