The Graduation Facade: How New York City’s Diploma Mills Mask College Readiness Crisis

At the start of 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed a two-point increase in New York City’s high school graduation rate to approximately 70 percent. The Mayor said the City was on its way to achieving his goal of 80 percent graduation in the next ten years. The goal would be admirable if it weren’t being used as a façade to cover up a larger issue – the fact that college readiness in NYC high schools lags far behind graduation rates.

Graduating high school is an essential first step, but it is not enough to address the long-term needs of NYC public school students. Recent world events highlight the important ways that our economy has changed – and the need for the public school system to shift to meet new demands. In an increasingly competitive global job market, a diploma must become more than just a certificate of attendance. Preparing students for college and career is critical to ensuring their individual success and happiness, as well as the economic strength of our City and the nation.

The Mayor may be content to ignore deeper problems with City schools, but families deserve a straight answer to a basic question:

Does a high school diploma from a New York City public school mean a graduate is ready for college and beyond?

A new analysis from StudentsFirstNY exposes the problem of Diploma Mills, schools where the graduation rates are above average, but the students are not prepared for college or a career after high school.2 At these Diploma Mills, despite the hard work of the students, the piece of paper is not an indicator they are ready for their next life step. The report takes a deeper look at the college readiness crisis in New York City and identifies areas for improvement.

Read the full report (PDF). 

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