Mayor Bill de Blasio
By Rodney D. Gantt
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that high school graduation rates across New York City have reached a historic high, while dropout rates are at an all-time low, a trend local officials hope will continue through the Mayor’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda.
Recent reports showed the four-year high school graduation rate at nearly 73 percent citywide in 2016, a two percent increase compared to the previous year. With slight gains in each borough, the largest increase of three percent was recorded in the Bronx. Manhattan and Queens followed with increases just over two percent and Brooklyn and Staten Island saw gains of 1.4 and 1.9 percent, respectively. Broken down by ethnicity, the highest increases were among black and Hispanic students as were decreases in dropout rates, according to the city Department of Education.
The dropout rate fell to 8.5 percent citywide, a .5 percent decrease from 2015.
Graduation rates also increased 4.8 percent among the city’s 31 renewal schools, which are those among the poorest in performance and criteria. The increase was more than double the citywide increase.
“Our record-high graduation and the record-low dropout rates are a testament to the hard work of our students, their families and our educators,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Our focus has always been on the work going on in every classroom and that’s where it’s going to stay.”
Touting the progress of the public school system, Fariña said that she and the mayor have worked to improve instruction and “provide equity and excellence for all students.”
With the goal of ensuring 80 percent of students graduate high school by 2026 and that two-thirds are college ready, Equity and Excellence is “building a path from pre-K to college and careers for every child in every neighborhood in New York City,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office.
Initiatives on the 2017 agenda include free full-day, high-quality pre-K for every 4-year-old through Pre-K for All; ensuring that every student is reading on their grade level by the end of second grade; improving elementary and middle-school math instruction; and ensuring that all eighth graders are being taught algebra. Other initiatives include Computer Science for All, which would bring the most up-to-date computer science instruction to every school, and AP for All, which would give all high school students access to at least five Advanced Placement courses.
Another goal is that students would be offered more challenging, hands-on college and career-aligned coursework and provided with additional financial support through College Access for All.
Post secondary enrollment in either college or trade school has reached 55 percent, a record high for those in the class of 2015, and, in 2016, the college readiness rate among all students was 37 percent, another record high. Also, 51 percent of graduates in the class of 2016 graduated high school on time and met the City University of New York’s standards for college readiness in English and math, Fariña said.
“Our public schools are unquestionably the strongest they’ve ever been – we’re graduating more students than ever before and we are on track to reach our Equity and Excellence for All goal of 80 percent of students graduating on time,” said de Blasio. “From day one, we’ve believed in the promise of our public schools as the ladder to success for all New Yorkers and we are raising the bar at every school in every zip code.”