Op-ed: City must do more to make our high school graduates ready for college


In the weeks to come, thousands of New York City high school seniors will don a cap and gown, and walk across the stage to receive their high school diplomas. It will be a special moment for students, their families and their teachers; for many, it will be the start of the next chapter in their lives.

A high school diploma is more than just a piece of paper. It is a symbol of a student’s achievement and hard work in the past, and should be a springboard forward into the future, whether it is in pursuit of higher education or employment in the workforce.

The unfortunate reality today, however, is that too many New York City public schools are failing to adequately prepare high school students with the skills they need to be successful in the next stage of their lives. The de Blasio administration reported in February that nearly two-thirds of all 2016 high school graduates were not “college ready” — meaning that the student would require remedial work upon entering college.

What is the value of a high school diploma if more than half of New York City high school students are not ready for college? Not much.

A report from Comptroller Scott Stringer last year highlighted New York City’s college readiness problem. According to the findings, college readiness rates declined at nearly 16 percent of all City high schools from 2011-2015.

All told, New York City high school graduates are faced with two divergent realities: one where a high school diploma is the ticket to opportunity, and the other where a high school diploma is the equivalent of funny money. In the greatest City in the world, it is a moral outrage that our graduation rate (72%) is nearly double our college readiness rate (37%).

Those numbers tell me that our City is failing too many of its young people. Either we are not empowering them with the skills they need, or we are nonsensically pushing them along to a higher level, when they have not yet demonstrated sufficient understanding of previous subject matter. Neither is acceptable.

No matter what spin City Hall tries put on it: the lack of college readiness in New York City is an urgent crisis that will have a lasting effect on our City’s economic future.

New York City today is in the midst of a daunting affordability crisis that makes it difficult for people to make ends meet and support their families. Combating this affordability crisis in the long term depends on our City having quality education system that empowers every young person with the critical skills required to fill good-paying jobs, instead of leaving large swaths of students behind. Not only will closing the closing the college readiness gap lift New Yorkers out of poverty, but it will strengthen our economy with a workforce that is truly second to none.

The jobs of tomorrow rely on how we educate our young people today. It is the future innovators, entrepreneurs, and small business owners who will comprise the foundation of our economy and create jobs for their fellow New Yorkers.

Addressing our college readiness crisis will not be easy, but it is a challenge we must face head on.

Lancman represents the 24th Council District based in Hillcrest.

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