City: Grad Rates Show More Students Staying in School

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A top official at the Department of Education continued to defend the high school graduation rates for 2012, released on Monday, which dropped slightly from the year before. Speaking on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, Chief Academic officer Shael Polakow-Suransky applauded the students' performance given that this was the first year all five of the Regents exams required for graduation were more difficult.

"The fact that kids rose to the challenge and basically held steady is a real accomplishment," Suransky said. "People are working really, really hard in our schools. Teachers and kids and principals have changed the way they are doing instruction. This isn't enough. We're not satisfied. But this is the way you move from a system that's failing most of its kids to a system that's succeeding for the vast majority of kids."

The city's overall graduation rate dipped slightly to 60.4 percent from 60.9 percent last year. This includes students graduating in June with a Local, Regents or Advanced Regents diploma after four years. For those graduating in August, 2012, the numbers are slightly better but still lower than the previous year, 64.7 percent graduating compared to 65.5 percent.

See SchoolBook's article from Monday for more on the graduation rates.

Suransky also pointed to the lower drop-out rate, down to 11.7 percent last year compared to 22 percent in 2005.

"We now see in six years over 73 percent of the kids are graduating and that's what we want," Suransky said.

One caller identified as George said he was concerned the focus on tests only prepares kids to take more tests. "When are you going to teach them how to live a life, how to earn a living?" he asked.

Suransky said he agreed with the caller that instruction needs to cater to a variety of students, and that not everyone will head to college. This issue struck a chord among those leaving comments online.

"Bravo to the caller who asked about teaching kids to make a living," one person known as "ladyjay114" wrote. "This is what the NYC high schools used to do before "school reform" made college the only goal of a high school. I went to Bergtraum High School (which was decimated by the Bloomberg administration's ed policies) and had enough education from that school to get a job in Accounting."

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