Study looks at city discharge rates

April 30, 2009 4:04:53 PM PDT
A new report says that one in five New York City students leaves without graduating. That is up nearly 15 percent this decade. The charge: Are these students being forced out to skew graduation numbers? After a series of academic failures, Roberto Sacaza tried to enroll at a Manhattan High School where, he says, the principal asked him to leave.

Roberto is now in a GED program called "The Door," a not-for-profit aimed at struggling students.

Program exectuive director Diane Morales says her students need the most help.

Discharged students not counted in the graduation rate, while dropout rates, which lower the graduation rate, are counted. Public advocate Betsy Gotbaum's office released a report, which examined discharge rates between the years 2000 and 2007.

It found that while the class of 200 saw 17.5 percent of students discharged, that number grew to more than 21 percent by 2007, for a total of more than 142,000 students. After giving birth to her daughter, who is now 2, 18-year-old Yeisa Hurtado was referred to The Door by her former school.

She said if her school had pushed her, she could have made it.

The study says that while the four-year graduation rate of the class of 2007 was reported at 62 percent, if discharges counted as drop outs, the graduation rate would be 45.5 percent.

Leonie Haimson, of "Class Size Matters," says if the city is only talking about the graduation rate and not the discharge rate, the problems only get worse.

The Department of Education strongly disputes the findings, saying that the discharge trends have nothing to do with the graduation rates, and that students discharged for academic reasons are only a small percentage of the discharge rate. But observers say the trend is alarming.

Gotbaum's office is calling for an independent audit of the graduation and discharge figures.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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