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What to look for in today's graduation rate presentations

State and city officials are preparing right now to unveil graduation rates for students who entered high school in 2005.

The state has already dumped several massive sets of data on its Web site: One document shows overall 4-, 5-, and 6-year rates by local school district, and a second, much larger document shows each the graduation rate for each school in the state. A list of city schools only is at the end of this post.

But we still don’t know the city’s overall graduation rate, which last year was 56 percent. The 2009 figure will be in the presentation that State Education Commission David Steiner is delivering in just a few minutes (as soon as the Board of Regents finishes hearing about the space crunch in the state libraries). Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein are holding a briefing on the city’s graduation rate later this afternoon.

Here are some other important data points to look out for today:

  • How are students with special needs faring? The city saw a 10-point jump in the graduation rate for students who considered English language learners last year, which Klein attributed to the growth of high schools catering to new immigrants. Has that trajectory continued? And have city schools done any better graduating students with special needs? That rate has remained stubbornly low.
  • What type of diploma are students earning? Students have the choice to earn a “local” diploma or take more Regents exams and get the more rigorous Regents diploma. But the state data groups students earning both types together. The distinction is important because soon, all students will have to earn the more rigorous diploma type, a change that has some advocates concerned about a graduation-rate drop-off, especially among the highest-need students.
  • The city has made low graduation rates a key element of its argument for closing high schools. Do the schools that are being closed have the lowest graduation rates in the city? Or, as the Independent Budget Office suggested in a recent report, are the newest schools to be closed merely some of the city’s worst?
  • Who are the worst performers? Of schools that aren’t being closed, Manhattan’s Washington Irving High School has the lowest graduation rate, at 39 percent. Washington Irving also has the highest dropout rate in the city, at 33 percent. That means that one third of all students at the school formally drop out by the August when they should have graduated. A year ago, that figure was 23 percent. The school with the second-highest dropout rate, Peace and Diversity Academy, opened in 2004.

NYC 2009 Graduation Rates by School

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