By Patrick Donachie
High school graduation rates in Queens increased and dropout rates declined during the past school year, matching citywide trends, according to city statistics, but state authorities cited worsening trends for English Language Learners in the city.
The Queens graduation rate increased from 73.3 to 75.5 percent — beating the citywide rate of 72.6 percent, which was an all-time high — while the dropout rate dropped 0.2 percent, from 7.9 percent to 7.7, out of a total cohort of 19,398 students.
“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.”
Hispanic and black students in the city both saw a graduation rate increase of more than 2.5 percent, and across all demographics the dropout rate either decreased or stayed the same. The city also announced a 4.8 percent increase in graduation rates in the city’s 31 Renewal high schools, up to 59.3 percent. However, critics caution that graduation rates do not necessarily indicate college readiness for students.
New York State also released high school graduation rates Feb. 10, announcing a rise in the statewide graduation rate to 79.4 percent for its 2016 graduating class. It marked an increase of 12 percentage points from 10 years earlier, according to the state. However, the data revealed a decline in the graduation rate for current English Language Learners, while students who transferred out of ELL classes saw an increase.
“While the state’s overall graduation rate went up slightly, we must find more effective ways to address the achievement gaps that continue to impact far too many of our children — particularly those students for whom English is not their first language,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said.
In describing the ELL graduation and dropout rates, the state Education Department pinned the negative trends on New York City, attributing the statewide decline in ELL graduation to a 9.3 percent drop in city rates. The state also attributed an increase in ELL dropout rates to the city’s performance, noting that the ELL dropout rate increased by 5.4 percent in the five boroughs.
De Blasio and Fariña both said the city was on track to ensure that 80 percent of city students would graduate on time, and two-thirds of graduates would be college-ready, by 2026. City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights), the chair of the Council’s Education Committee, attributed the gains to investment by the administration.
“Because we have embraced progressive approaches to education, such as community schooling and restorative justice practices, thousands of students are now on the path to success,” he said.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona