StudentsFirstNY’s Report Exposes College Readiness Crisis at NYC High Schools

City Hall Exploits Diploma Mills & Hides Behind Facade of Graduation Rates 

New York, NY – As the school year comes to a close, a shocking new report released today by leading education reform organization StudentsFirstNY, The Graduation Facade: How New York City’s Diploma Mills Mask College Readiness Crisis, 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. Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed the fact that high school graduation rates ticked up two percentage points, but this data point obscures 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 ways that our economy is changing – and the public school system must shift to meet the new demands of an increasingly competitive global job market. Preparing students for college and career is an absolute necessity to ensure the individual success and happiness of students, 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,” said Jenny Sedlis, Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY. “This Mayor has a disturbing tendency to withhold information and hide the truth – but this report clearly shows that the public school system is failing to prepare students for life after high school.”

A new analysis from StudentsFirstNY, based 2015 graduation statistics, exposes the problem of Diploma Mills in the NYC public school system. 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.

Among the key findings are:

1.     Diploma Mills are a serious problem. 

  • There are 45 high schools with above average graduation rates that mask college readiness rates below 20 percent. 
  • Every Diploma Mill on this list has a 50-point or higher gap between the graduation rate and the percent of students who are college ready.
  • Only one of the 45 Diploma Mills qualified for the Mayor’s Renewal program because theirhigh graduation rates masked the real problems.
  • The worst example of this is the HS for Medical Professions, which boasts a 95 percent graduation rate when only 15 percent of students are college ready.

2.     College remediation in New York City is off the Charts

  • Only if you’re lucky enough to get into one of 34 high schools (of 428 with graduation statistics) do you have a decent shot to make it through college successfully. 

3.     The de Blasio administration has no clear plan for schools with the worst college readiness rates.

  • Of the 10 schools with the lowest college readiness rates, just two are in the Mayor’s Renewal program.

“A diploma should represent the culmination of a hard-earned journey, but the sad reality is that the system isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Kids work hard and they deserve a school system that works as hard as they do to prepare them for a successful and fulfilling life,” said Tenicka Boyd, Senior Director of Organizing for StudentsFirstNY.   

“Families across New York City depend on public schools to prepare our kids for college and beyond. A diploma should be a passport to greater opportunity – not a broken promise,” said Anyta Brown, a public school grandparent from Brooklyn.

“My son attends Automotive High School, where nearly half the kids are graduating, but just 3% are ready for college. I feel like the school has failed my child and he is stuck with a worthless diploma. Something has to be done now to make sure this problem doesn’t continue, especially for the schools in my community, said Evelyn Bane, Automotive High School Parent. 

“It’s disappointing to see that my grandson attends one of the schools where less than 3% of kids are prepared for college. Mayor de Blasio needs to get serious about this problem and take the necessary steps to make sure students have the tools they need to succeed in college and the workplace,” said Au Hogan, grandparent of a student at August Martin High School.

A broad cross section of education leaders in New York City have recently highlighted the importance of college readiness – and the City’s failure to address the issue: 

  • According to CUNY Chancellor James Milliken, a “significant number” of NYC public high school graduates who enroll at City University are not prepared for college. Milliken said, “The vast majority of the students who graduate from NYC high schools and go to college come to CUNY … close to 40,000” and that “The majority of students who come to our community colleges need some remedial education in math or language.” In 2014, CUNY Chancellor James Milliken called the lack of college readiness – and the subsequent need for remediation – the system’s “biggest core issue.” [Politico, 6/13/2016]
  • Last month, former NYU President John Sexton connected the issue of college readiness to the lack of effective teachers: “We know how to destroy educational systems. You do what the NYC public-school system has done in the last five years: You hire teachers that have lower SAT scores than the students who are graduating. … That’s a ticket for failure because you’re hiring from the bottom half of the existing class. How can they teach the [next] class?”  [NY Post, 5/30/2016]
  • Earlier this month, Chancellor Farina made a lofty announcement promoting “college access for all” that had absolutely nothing to do with preparing kids for the academic rigor of college. The new $4.5 million initiative will pay for a college visit for seventh graders who participate in a workshop but does nothing to improve the academic preparation of those students. [Politico, 6/13/2016]
To read the full report, click here.

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