For the sixth year in a row and 11th time in 13 years, New York City’s high school graduation rate is up, according to statistics released by the state Education Department. In June 2018, 72.7% of the students who had started high school four years earlier in the city’s public high schools had earned a diploma. (By August, even more had graduated.) That’s 26.2 points higher than the rate in 2005 — a truly impressive gain.
In 1986, when I was an employee of the city school system, I conducted the first analysis of graduation rate numbers. From then until the early 2000s, the city’s graduation rate was stuck at or near 50%. Though things began to change for the better under Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor de Blasio has rightly taken some credit for the improvement, which has continued throughout his mayoralty.
Critics allege that the improvement reflects nothing more than shifting state standards, which make it easier to obtain a diploma, and that the numbers are meaningless if not all high school graduates are deemed “college-ready.” Both criticisms are unfair — and the second is particularly wrong-headed.
Government statistics always deserve our skepticism, but in this case the facts are clear. We’ve seen steady and sustained improvement in educational opportunity for the city’s young people, regardless of attempts to wipe that away.
Ray Domanico is the director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute.
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