getting to graduation

City’s June graduation rate jumps nearly three points, outpacing state

Updated, 5:15 p.m. — New York City’s four-year June graduation rate jumped nearly three points to 64.2 percent this year — the largest uptick in several years — while its share of dropouts fell and the achievement gap between different student groups narrowed.

This year, 9.7 percent of students quit high school, down nearly one point from last year. At the same time, the share of black and Hispanic students who earned diplomas in 2014 grew by about 2.5 points each, shrinking the still-sizable graduation divide between them and white students. Students with disabilities made the most gains, with their graduation rate rising by 3.4 points.

The latest figures continue a decade-long upward march for the city: Since 2005, the graduation rate has increased by nearly 18 points. Despite those long-term gains, both state and city officials emphasized that more work is needed and pointed out that most high school graduates are still ill-prepared for college.

“We must make progress and increase graduation rates further, and make sure students stay in college and are equipped to have meaningful careers,” schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement.

Only 32 percent of city graduates earned high enough test scores this year to avoid remedial math and English classes at the City University of New York, the city announced last month — a one-point improvement from the year before. Joseph Viteritti, a public policy professor at Hunter College, said officials must be cautious about touting the gains since the college-readiness rates remain so low.

“Graduation rates in this state continue to have a kind of cloud over them,” he said. “We’re really not that confident they represent a level of performance they should for students who are going to enter the job market or go onto higher education.”

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While all student groups saw their graduation rates rise this year, large gaps remain.

For example, while 80.7 percent of the city’s white students earned diplomas this year, just 61.4 percent of Hispanic students and 63.8 percent of black students managed to do so. Meanwhile, the share of students still learning English who graduated by June barely budged, from 32.3 percent in 2013 to 32.5 percent this year. (The rate for students with disabilities is 36.6 percent.)

State policymakers toughened the requirements to earn a diploma two years ago. While the change did not pull down the overall graduation rate, English learners struggled to keep up, with their rate tumbling by nearly 7 points since 2011.

Recently, city and state officials have vowed to do more to help English learners. The city agreed last month to enroll more students in bilingual classes and to make sure their teachers are well trained, while the state Board of Regents proposed doubling the part of the state budget devoted to such students to $86 million next year.

The state is also considering a policy change that would let students substitute a different exam for one of the five they must currently pass to graduate, and another that would let English learners appeal low scores on their English exams. Abja Midha, a project director at Advocates for Children, said the proposals must be coupled with more classroom support.

“We definitely welcome the recent increase in attention to English-language learners,” she said. “But we definitely will be keeping an eye on what instructional supports are provided and how they play out.”

The graduation figures arrived months earlier than in past years (something the state attributed to an improved data system), and during a transitional moment for the state and city school systems.

State Education Commissioner John King announced last week that he was stepping down to join the federal education department, after guiding the state through a rocky transition to tough new learning standards. But even as the new Common Core standards caused state test scores to plunge, the statewide graduation rate has inched up during King’s tenure, with the latest figures offering King some clear progress to cite as he leaves office.

While King called the increase “encouraging” in a statement, he noted that nearly a quarter of students still fail to graduate in four years, which he argued is reason for the state to continue its support for the higher standards. A few of the Regents exams were tied to the new standards for the first time this year, but students will not need to pass a full set of Common Core tests in order to graduate until 2022.

“Students must be given every opportunity to meet those increased expectations,” King said in his statement.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.