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Concerns underlie city's grad rate, over 60 percent for first time

The city’s 4-year high school graduation rate continued its upward tick last year and now exceeds 60 percent for the first time, according to new figures released by the state today.

Sixty-one percent of students who entered high school in 2006 graduated four years later, according to the new figures. Last year, the city’s graduation rate was 59 percent. When August graduates are included, the rate rises to 65.1 percent.

But the new figures show that city graduates continue to lag on more demanding measures of achievement. Just 1 in 5 graduates is prepared for college, according to the state’s measure of college readiness, which looks at students’ math and English Regents exam scores in addition to their diploma type. That’s compared to 36.7 percent of graduates statewide. And just 16.4 percent of city graduates earned the prestigious Regents diploma with Advanced Distinction, far more than in the state’s four other large cities but significantly lower than the statewide average of 30.9 percent, according to the state data.

Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott are likely to emphasize the city’s performance and growth relative to the state’s four other large school districts when they present the new graduation rate at a press conference later today. The event’s location, at Brooklyn’s Van Arsdale Campus, suggests that they might also point to gains over time: The three high schools there last year graduated an average of 84.9 percent of students. Before it closed in 2007, Van Arsdale High School had a graduation rate under 30 percent.

The new graduation rate — and state officials’ concern about its significance — comes on top of other data points raising questions about the city’s academic performance. New standards last year meant that the number of students in grades 3-8 who failed state math and reading exams jumped dramatically. The higher number of students recommended for summer school this year suggests that the proportion of students failing state tests has only risen.

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