Legislation requiring more transparency and accountability passed by NYC Council

On June 29, 2011, along with the final city budget, the NYC Council approved two new important bills requiring more transparent reporting from the NYC Department of Education.

According to the first bill, 354-A, the DOE will now be required to report each year by June 30 on the number of students discharged by individual schools and system-wide, as well as by discharge code, so we will know better what is happening to the thousands of students that continue to leave NYC high schools each year before graduation but are not counted as dropouts.

Some students move out of state or transfer to parochial and private schools, but many transfer to GED programs or alternative schools where they do not have a chance to graduate with a high school diploma, and currently they do not publicly report on how many are in each category.  Moreover, the percent of 9th graders who are discharged from high school has doubled under this administration, without any explanation.

I am particularly proud of this bill because the work of Class Size Matters helped bring more prominence to this issue.  See the discharge rate report that we released in 2009 by lead author Jennifer Jennings, this story in the NY Times which covered our findings, and our testimony in support of this bill in January.  An audit we asked for from the State Comptroller’s office, along with then-Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, was released in March, and found that 15-20% of the students reported as discharges by DOE should really have been reported as dropouts.

The other bill, 364-A,  just passed by the Council, will report on the fate of students at the closing schools; whether they are discharged, drop out, or are given credit recovery to graduate before the school closes its doors.  (Many of the latter programs are substandard, and are being implemented in schools to artificially inflate their graduation rates.) For more on this issue, see our blog posting about the hearings.  If students are behind credits at the closing schools – which many are – they have not been allowed by DOE to transfer to other regular high schools offering t a high school diploma; as a result there have been sky-high discharge and dropout rates at many of the phase-out schools. Hopefully this bill will provide DOE more incentive to ensure that students are not left behind when their school closes its doors.

At the hearings in January, DOE officials made the absurd claim that these two bills violated FERPA, or federal privacy protections, and threatened that they would not comply with the laws as written. According to a report in Gotham Schools, they have apparently changed their mind and will report this critical information.  Let’s hope they do so, responsibly and accurately.

See GothamSchools: Bills will hold DOE’s feet to fire on discharge, graduation rates.


Categories Uncategorized | Tags: | Posted on July 3, 2011

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