More City Students Graduate, But Fewer Are Ready for College or Work

New York city's high school graduation rate continued to improve last year, with 61 percent of students who entered ninth grade in 2006 graduating on time last June.

But only 21 percent of ninth graders who started high school in 2006 graduated with math and reading scores on their Regents exams that the state considers "ready for college or work."

Statewide, 73 percent of students graduated on time but only about 37 percent of those who started high school in 2006 graduated with Regent scores that were considered college- or career ready.

"It's pretty hard to argue that we couldn't do better," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "But on the other hand I don't think it takes away anything from those that have really accomplished something."

The state's "aspirational performance measure" is based on test scores it considers necessary to pass freshman college or enter the workforce. Those scores are a minimum of 75 on the English Regents and 80 on the math Regents.

Bloomberg Defends Steady Improvement

On-time graduation rate has climbed in New York City from less than 50 percent five years ago to 61 percent in June of 2010, and 65 percent when counting students who graduated in August, Bloomberg said on Tuesday. He called that a "new all-time high."

The mayor and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott also noted more city students are graduating with regular and Advanced Regents diplomas, and fewer students (11.8 percent) are receiving the less challenging local diplomas that will eventually be phased-out by the state.

"A lot of people worried that this meant our graduation rate would really fall off the cliff," Walcott said. "In reality just the opposite has happened."

Graduation rates for blacks and Hispanics have gone up at a faster pace than those for white and Asian students over the past five years. Last year, more than 50 percent of blacks and Hispanics graduated on time compared to 40 and 37 percent, respectively, in 2005.

New College and Career Ready Measurement

The wide gap between the regular graduation rate and the percentage of students who are considered ready for college or work wasn't just limited to New York City.

State officials said they were troubled by these discrepancies: "This data underscores the urgency of our efforts to continue to raise standards, improve assessments, and support the highest quality teaching in all of our classrooms" said Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.