Saturday, December 27, 2014

Why The NYC Graduation Rate Does Not Reflect Real Academic Achievement.

With much fanfare, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, took credit for an almost 3% increase in the high school graduation rate.  The graduation rate has improved from 61.3% to 64.2%.  Statewide, the graduation rate was 76.4%.  Sounds like we are on the right path in improving student academic achievement? Wrong! the graduation rate is being manipulated and this is reflected by the college readiness scores, be it the State or City definition of "college and career readiness" (Citywide college ready is 32% and lower if you use the State's college ready scores).  How is the City's graduation rate manipulated?  Let me count the ways.

Credit Recovery:  This is one of the best ways schools have used to add empty credits to a failing student's transcript.  While the State forced the DOE to crack down on the awarding of credit recovery courses, the abuse continues throughout the system. 

Principal pressure:  In most every school I go to teachers complain that the Principal demands a passing grade for 80% of the students on the teacher's roster.  Otherwise, the teacher will be rated poorly.  I personally experienced it at Flushing High School in 2012.  Moreover, a school's grading policy allows a student to fail most of the year but pass the class at the end if they get a passing rate in any one period by limiting the failing grade to 55 and no lower. Remember this attempt?  Take a look at the 65% bulge at a school and the bigger the bulge the more likely the students who were granted a passing grade were academically unprepared for the adult world.

Alternative Settings: Many struggling students who are in danger of dropping out are sent to alternative settings such as transfer schools, YABC programs, and massive online courses through APEX or Castle learning.  These settings are simply used to give students who would otherwise have not graduated an opportunity to graduate.  While I understand the need for such programs, it does devalue the education requirements.  Moreover, that doesn't make them academically prepared for the real world of a career.

It's nice that the graduation rate is improving but when it comes to real academic achievement I have my doubts that many of these students graduating are academically ready for either college or a career. The pushing out of academically unprepared students by giving them phony diplomas and expect them to become positive role models for the next generation that desperately needs them is wishful thinking and a failure to properly address the issues of poverty, family, and community that's the major problem in our City.


Pissedoffteacher said...

My former AP bitched at a teacher with a 98% passing on geometry regents. He didn't want to hear why it wasn't 100% like his little newbies and he also didn't want to hear about how he manipulated classes so some teachers would always get 100%.

Anonymous said...

A 100% passing rate with 100% of the kids taking it? IMPOSSIBLE!

A 100% passing rate when the "brighter" kids are cherry-picked from the cohort? More than likely.

Bronx ATR said...

These policies do a tremendous disservice to all students as it devalues a public school diploma for the deserving. This also strengthens charter school and voucher arguments. Society as a whole is weakened because public assistance will be the only application that will be processed. The alternative of course is to really teach them, as every teacher wants. Not the current horror- comedy fa├žade. Watch High School High with Jon Lovitz to get an extremely accurate picture of many NYC public high schools.

Anonymous said...

Many professional educators --especially at CUNY, SUNY and other colleges across the area know that high school grad rates and more diplomas don't mean much when nearly 50% of incoming freshmen have to take remedial English or Math. Even taking on coursework requirements at community colleges is a challenge for these grads.

Anonymous said...

I pass every single one of my students in high school. They'd have to be not showing up for months to fail my class. I used to be quite strict but soon realized it didn't matter, not too much matters. Then I started passing every single kid. I was liked more by my admin which led to having a bit more fun, per session hours, and leeway on other items. I liked it so I kept passing the morons. Now I make 6 figures as my base salary. I will tell you what really matters. My personal life and my own children and paying my mortgage in the suburbs so my own kids have a real education. Chaz, please add me to the list of inflating the grad rate. Nothing personal, it's all about survival.

Anonymous said...

Wow!!! 5:38 is my hero. I feel the same way. A very true post with a ton if validity. My scholarship is around 88% passing but the actual number shd be at about 60%. Either way, doesn't matter like you said.

ReadyToRetireNow said...

I agree. The best way to avoid problems is too stay off the radar. I used to be strict too, but to no avail. It didn't change my students habits, nor did it encourage more positive parental involvement. Unless a kid is chronically absent, I find ways to move them along; thereby satisfying aministrators, students and parents and ensuring my survival. Terrible, but true.

Anonymous said...

You just described 99% of all teachers. I agree with you whole heartedly. The grad rate in NYC would hover around 7% otherwise-- yeah and Farina and DeBozo know it.

Anonymous said...

Hey chaz

As an ATR I was recently assigned to a second opportunity high school. I was asked to cover a math class of a teacher who had fallen ill. I was looking at the grades of the students in the first marking period.
I was horrified to see that students with more than eight absences were given passing grades. In fact there were students who had as many as 23 absences being given grades of 70. When I went to the assistant principal and asked how this could be I was told we give the students as many chances as possible to pass. I was told that students can do Apex or write papers. Is it any wonder why students are not prepared for college.

Anonymous said...

To Bronx ATR 10:21
Also the movie teachers is another accurate description of high schools.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Chaz. Could you look into these remarks and possibly do an article on how inflated the passing rates are at high schools? There is no correlation between pass rates for subject classes AND pass rates on regents exams. Some schools show pass rates (let's say in Science) of 90% in Living Environment, but the regents pass rate in Living Environment is 40% or below. These are real numbers and real facts.

Philip Nobile said...

Your post and its commentators are evidence of a vast conspiracy among administrators and teachers to violate state education law against “Knowingly and willfully mak[ing] an unauthorized and false alteration or representation of any grade, credit, honor, award or standing in the permanent record or transcript of any student… .”

Regrettably, nobody at the top dares to stop this crime spree, not state, not city, not UFT. Highest possible pass rates by any means necessary are in everybody’s interest, except for the students cheated of a better education.

Several months ago, I emailed the Chancellor and warned her that pass quotas were illegal: “How will you stop this corrosive practice akin to Regents cheating—write a memo to principals, invite teachers to blow the whistle, identify schools with 65 bulges and check for cheating, all of the above?” There was no reply.

I emailed the same concerns to Kathleen Cashin, my Brooklyn Regent and former Superintendent, who has carried my complaints to Chancellor Tisch. Although one of the better people in the game, Cashin wanted no part of the clean-up. “Sorry Phillip. In the midst of 100 obligations. KC”

The Department of Investigation felt likewise. Said Chief Counsel Michael Sillers: the “DOI has determined not to take action on your complaint.”

As for the UFT, consider this recent restricted exchange between a union rep and me on the hot potato of quotas:

PN: “Will you answer previous question re UFT knowledge of (and opposition to) principals' pass quotas? If not, will UFT support investigation of such?”

REP: “I will gladly answer any questions relating to contractual rights and assist you in exercising those rights. Article 8D of the contract addresses grading. Look forward to seeing you soon. Have a great Holiday and restful break.”

PN: “Plainly, pass quotas that override teacher judgment violate 8D that explicitly states: ‘The teacher’s judgment in grading students is to be respected.’"

"Are you saying that the UFT is not interested in stopping principals from violating 8D by intimidating teachers into passing failing students to satisfy a quota and, consequently, break state education law? The UFT was infamously silent on scrubbing and nowhere on test security. But you can't go wrong in protecting your members from being pushed around and worrying about their ratings, if they dare grade their students fairly and honestly."

"If I'm right about the 65 bulge in course grades, replicating the Regents scandal, the UFT has a serious obligation to step up. At least, do some research of your own: FOIL the number and percent of 65s in course grades per school. A quick email survey would surely provide enough anecdotal information to file a grievance. I'll be glad to help. How can the UFT say no, and with what authority?"

I kicked the above up to Mulgrew, UFT Chief Counsel Adam Ross, and Brooklyn BR Debbie Poulos on December 23. I don’t expect to hear back. I doubt that Mulgrew can stand the truth even though,
lest we forget, he called for a Truth Commission (

What a revolting predicament! Where are the governor, the mayor, and our AFT President on this latest dirty secret (after scrubbing and credit recovery)? I wonder what they would think of a brazen John Dewey high school handout to teachers saying, if you can believe it, 'Objective: Participants will be able to:
Optimize their grading and assessment policies to achieve 85% passing rates in all classes.'"

Anonymous said...

Hey Phillip, you need to relax, possibly enjoy your life a bit more. Your view is understandable but is so ridiculous. It's like you want to be remembered as a fairy tale character who makes a difference. This is not a fairy tale and you are not getting an academy award. All teachers make the same $$$ given their years experience. If I fail 30 kids in my class, I still get my 5 summer checks. If I pass the same 30, I still get my checks. The only difference is that if I fail the 30, I will actually see them again, which would be a terrible academic year. Pass everyone and make everyone happy. Why fail kids. You write about receiving a quality education? HUHH? Are you serious????? I have an administrator who can't speak English, a superintendent who can't write in correct grammar, and the paraprofessional in my class plays candy crush on her brand new Apple I phone 6 all day. This system is so out of wack. The chancellor has personal assistants who take her calls, check her emails, etc. None speak English that well. No one cares Phil. You want teachers to step up and fail kids if they deserve it? WHY? You're a very foolish person. Clearly intelligent, knowledgable, and determined, however, foolish. Now maybe you can see why no one responds to you. No one cares Phil! Keep fighting the machine. It will get you nowhere with plenty of wasted time.

Anonymous said...

Where is 'Welcome Back Kotter' when you need him?

Philip Nobile said...

To Anonymous 4:41--If you were Zola, Dreyfus would still be on Devil's Island.
Don't forget, the same nobodies
looked the other way re Regents tampering until the Wall Street Journal exposed the dirty little secret of the "65 bulge" in 2011.

In consciousness of guilt, Klein told the paper that he preferred not to comment (lest he incriminate himself, perhaps). Bloomberg said nothing. Walcott was silent, too.

In short, you never know ... maybe Mulgrew will rev up his Truth Commission idea. Anybody know how that's going?

Bronx ATR said...

Hi Phil,
Your entire premise rests on the assumption that the goal is to educate these students. It is not. It is to graduate them. Think of it as a fast food restaurant - get them in and out as quickly as possible. The cashiers are the teachers (they don't need to know how to make change, the register does it). The manager is a leadership academy principal who graduated from Hamburger University. The manager hires and fires according to the bottom dollar. There's no advantage to hiring a more expensive and knowledgeable cashier that will thwart the DOE's goals. This is the model implemented by Bloomberg and the model that is still in effect.

ReadyToRetireNow said...

Excellent analogy. Bravo.