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Schools Making Few Strides, a Study Finds
By Anemona Hartocollis
The statistical picture of achievement in New York City public schools has remained virtually unchanged and bleak for a decade, even as mayors and chancellors have come and gone, a study sponsored by the Manhattan Institute has found.
The study, released yesterday by the institute, a conservative research and policy center, found only one bright spot, which is a result of state rather than city policy: the rising percentage of students passing Regents graduation exams, especially in English and history.
In the last four years, since the state decided to make Regents exams a graduation requirement, the percentage of graduates earning Regents diplomas has risen to 27 percent from 19 percent, reversing an eight-year decline, the study found.
More ominously, the study recited a familiar litany of failure. Only 50 percent of New York City high school students graduate within four years, either with a diploma (46 percent) or a high-school equivalency diploma (4 percent), and the rate has not changed since the beginning of the 1990's.
Only 44 percent of black students and 39 percent of Hispanic students graduate within four years.
In elementary and middle schools, fewer than 30 percent of students pass the city's English exam in 7 of the city's 32 community school districts, and fewer than 30 percent pass the math exam in 14 districts.
"So much of public life in New York City has improved in the last decade, but the public schools have not participated in that improvement," the study said. "There has been no sustained improvement in the school system in a generation."
The report was written by Raymond Domanico, senior education adviser to the Metro New York Industrial Areas Foundation, for the Manhattan Institute.
It comes as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is negotiating with legislators in Albany to grant him direct control of the school system. Mr. Bloomberg argues that only a major change like mayoral control can improve the schools.
Randi Weingarten, president of the city teachers' union, said yesterday that the rising percentage of Regents diplomas shows that high standards can work, given the right kind of support.
The study said the performance of boys in New York City was a cause for concern. Girls graduate from high school at a 20 percent higher rate than boys, and girls generally score 10 points higher on standardized tests in grades 4 and 8, the study said. "Girls start out ahead and stay ahead," it said. "The performance of boys in the school system merits serious attention."
©2002 The New York Times
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