Report Shows New York’s Graduation Rate May be Inflated
According to a New York Equity Coalition report, high school graduation rates in New York State may have been inflated during the pandemic. The report shows that about 75% of graduates used at least one state test exemption to earn a diploma in 2021. According to The New York Education Trust, another educational group, graduation rates have been increasing since 2016. 2021 saw a graduation rate of 86.1%.
“While this is great news on the surface, recent changes to state graduation requirements make it difficult to know if graduation rate improvements accurately reflect how well schools are preparing students — especially those who have been historically underserved by the education system — for future success,” says the report.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the state Education Department to adopt a new way of doing things. Written standardized tests had to be canceled in 2020. The academic year of 2020-2021 saw even more changes as students were allowed to graduate without taking the Regents exams.
The report shows that during the pandemic, the number of students who chose to use the state test exemption to earn a diploma rose drastically. In 2020, 10% of graduates made use of it while in 2021, 70% of the graduates did.
It appears as if more and more high schoolers were using the exemption as an easier means to obtain their diploma. In New York City, 60% of high school graduates used the exemption in 2021, a figure lower than 2020’s 66% but still higher than usual.
This use of exemptions and the cancellation of Regents exams have been criticized. The Regents exams that are typically part of the assessment process before graduation were canceled by the Education Department in January because of the COVID Omicron variant outbreak.
The U.S Government and History Regents exam was canceled in June when it was determined that a question on the test might induce post-traumatic stress disorder in students following the Buffalo massacre in May.
Still on New York’s Graduation Rate…
Critics of the recent change in the process have expressed how the value of a diploma has decreased due to the recent changes in graduation requirements.
Buffalo parent Samuel Radford III said, “I am becoming increasingly more concerned that a high school diploma does not mean our children are college and career ready.” Radford, who leads a parent advocacy group We the Parents, continued, “What does having a diploma mean if our children can’t pass basic skills tests for employment or have to take non-credit bearing remedial courses in college?” he said.
While the Education Department’s recent method of doing things has been criticized, there has also been support for a new way of doing things. Officials in the Education Department have expressed a desire to explore other means of showing students are ready to graduate. There have been suggestions of a program that includes oral presentations, research papers, and experiments.
Chancellor David Banks has previously spoken in support of expanding the means of grading students on their progress on the road to graduation. “If you ask me my personal opinion, I think exams are important, but I don’t think that they are everything,” said Banks in April, “and I certainly don’t think that they should be playing the outsized role that they play.”
“I want students debating the issues of the day. Real issues — the gun violence that’s going on out here, climate change — real issues,” he said. “We can’t have schools say, ‘we can’t do that,’ because we have to get ready for a standardized exam.”
The Education Department said that it believed it had done things in the most suitable manner during the pandemic and that it would look into the effects of not having students write the standardized tests.