‘Second-Chance’ Schools in NYC Have More Dropouts Than Grads

Last year, New York City schools that give drop-outs a second chance at a high school diploma had more students leave a second time than graduate. Yoav Gonen of the New York Post reports that this represents a substantial drop in performance from the year before.

Forty-four such second-chance schools operate around the city, and a review of their performance shows that they lost 78 more students over the 2011-2012 academic year than they graduated. During the 2010-11 academic year, graduates topped drop-outs by more than 600.

In total, the schools serve about 12,000 students.

Overall, six-year graduation rates at transfer schools fell by about 4 percentage points — to 52 percent — from 2011 to 2012, according to the Department of Education.

The four-year citywide graduation rate dropped by almost 1 percentage point over the same span.
Principals at the second-chance schools, which serve overage or under-credited teens who struggled at their original high schools, attributed part of the decline to midyear policy changes by the Department of Education.

The tweak that clarified which courses were required for graduation so that schools’ curriculum was in line with state standards could account for part of the decline. The change was brought about after an analysis of the transcripts from 60 schools around the city raised questions about the diplomas granted to at least some of the students.

Although school administrators believe that rules clarifying the standards were necessary, they object to them being adopted in the middle of the year, throwing into question whether some students who were en route to a diploma this spring might be able to graduate after all.

“I don’t think they understand what it’s like to tell a kid who was expecting to graduate in June, ‘I’m sorry, you have to come back next semester — not because you flunked your classes, but because these classes that you thought, that we all thought, could count toward graduation, can’t,’ ” said one principal at a transfer school. “That was hugely frustrating for all of us, and there were a lot of tears.”

DOE officials, who have opened up dozens of transfer schools in recent years to offer smaller, more intimate environments for struggling students, said the February 2012 policy tweaks were minor.

The Department of Education attributes the drop to tougher overall graduation requirements adopted last year — and specifically, the requirement that high schoolers in New York State pass all five of the Regents exams before being granted a diploma. Although passing the end-of-course tests was a prerequisite for earning a Regents diploma, prior to last year students could still graduate high school without having passed a single one.