A report recently released by the city’s Independent Budgetary Office (IBO) found that immigrant students graduate in four years at a slightly higher rate than U.S. born students, but those differences depend greatly on the foreign born student’s country of origin.
The IBO’s report tracked the graduation rates of the 89,750 students who were or would have been part of the class of 2009 at New York City public high schools.
Students from the Caribbean, South America, Mexico, Central America and U.S. Territories graduated at a rate lower than those born in the United States, but students from other parts of the world earned a greater percentage of diplomas.
“We’re pleased to see the positive graduation rates for immigrant students overall,” said Kim Sykes, manager of education advocacy for the New York Immigration Coalition.
But she was concerned that particular groups of immigrants had lower rates.
“The city needs to really ensure that all students get access to the services they need to acquire English proficiency,” said Sykes.
Also, she added, they need to have access to high-quality career and technical education programs, and have alternate paths to graduation that don’t include the state Regents exams.
Students at New York City public schools must pass those tests to graduate, which can be challenging for immigrant students who are trying to learn English, said Sykes.
One of the current activities that the New York Immigration Coalition is helping students with is the new policy that offers immigrants who entered the U.S. as children a way to remain in this country.
“I think [the new policy] is a meaningful incentive to stay in school,” said Sykes,
In addition to the gaps in immigrants from different areas of the world, there were also differences across racial lines.
Among immigrant students, whites had the highest graduation rate at 78.7 percent, but Asian students were only slightly lower at 74.6 percent.
U.S. born Asian students graduated at 87 percent, beating out white non-immigrant students by almost 10 percent.
Hispanic and black students graduated at a lower rate than white and Asian students in both categories, but the rate for black immigrant students was actually higher than their U.S. counterparts (68.3 versus 60.7 percent).
Hispanic immigrant students had the lowest graduation rate at 55.8 percent.
The IBO report was prompted by the large increase of graduation rates since the 2001-2002 school year. Before that time, they had barely changed since the mid-1980s when graduation rates were first reported.
In 2011, a record 65.5 percent of students graduated from high school, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced this June.
The Bloomberg administration has used these numbers to show the positive change the mayor has brought to the city’s public schools.
This sudden turnaround led to suspicions that the graduation rates were not what they seemed, and that some students who dropped out were actually being classified as “discharged.”
Discharged means a student left the New York City Public School system, but enrolled in another educational institution, such as a city private or parochial school, or in another public school district.
But the IBO found in its September 5 report that its calculations of graduation and dropout rates were close to what the Department of Education showed.