Bad students are pushed out of New York City high schools, reports the Times. That raises test scores and graduation rates, while hiding the extent of academic problems. The official drop-out rate of 20 percent could be more like 25 to 30 percent if students sent to GED programs were included. (Overall, only half of New York City students earn a public high school diploma or GED in four years.)
Students are pushed out for cutting classes and failing to earn credits, says the Times, which implies these are not good reasons to send students to alternative programs.
In many ways, Cynthia Boachie is typical of the pushouts. She was 17 when a counselor told her she could no longer attend De Witt Clinton High School. She had been in one too many fights, and missed one too many classes.
The repetition of “one” is deceptive. She was in more than one fight and cut more than one class; her academic skills are so low that she’s years away from earning a GED. But the Times would have preferred she stay at DeWitt, where she “thought she was doing OK.”
Andres Paez, 18, was advised to move on after four years at John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, where, because of frequent absences, he had accumulated only enough credits to be considered a sophomore.
“They said you’re not making it, and no matter how hard you work, you’re not going to make it, so there’s no point in your trying anymore,” Mr. Paez said.
Mr. Paez moved from the huge high school building to the equivalency class in the red trailer out back — a program open only to those with relatively good math and reading skills. Those who get an equivalency diploma in such programs are counted as graduates of the school, just like those who get Regents diplomas.
Mr. Paez did well there. He started the class in February and got his certificate in April. Still, he said, if anyone had told him that he could have stayed in school longer and gotten a Regents diploma, he probably would have done so.
“I didn’t know you could stay in school until you were 21,” said Mr. Paez, who is looking for a job.
Raise your hand if you think Paez could have earned a Regents diploma. Anyone? Raise your hand if you think it’s too bad he didn’t stay in high school till he turned 21.
Of course, there’s a shell game going on here. Principals have an incentive to count drop-outs as transfers and to get trouble-making truants off campus. But the story’s premise — students should stay in mainstream high schools even if they’re not attending, behaving or learning — seems crazy to me. They wouldn’t graduate; they’d just make it harder for teachers to teach and for other students to learn. What the district needs is better record-keeping and better alternative programs.
Jill Chaifetz, executive director of Advocates for Children, thinks more students would earn a diploma if they were encouraged to stay in high school till they turned 21.
“Instead of calling kids and saying, `You’re not going to make it so you should leave,’ ” she said, “it would be a completely different conversation if you called them in and said, `You won’t be able to graduate in four years, but you have seven years, so let’s talk about a long-term plan that will give you the enrichment and services you need to help you get to graduation.’ “
Seven years in high school. Yes, low-achieving truants will go for that.
Perhaps New York City will build married student housing for its superannuated elementary, middle and high school students, as Scrappleface suggests.