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Grad Rates Still Lag

TimesLedger Newspapers

Queens got its annual report card and a passing grade last week on the number of students graduating from high school after four years, which was achieved despite tougher Regents exams.

But there were some sobering facts in the report from the state Department of Education, which found the graduation rate slipped to 63.6 percent of high school students in Queens last year from 65 percent the year before.

Students in New York state are now required to pass all five Regents exams with a score of at least 65.

Nationwide, the four-year graduation rate climbed to a 40-year high of 78.2 percent of students for the 2009-10 academic year, the latest period for which figures are available, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

That leaves Queens trailing behind the national average, with one out of every three students failing to complete high school work in four years. But Queens, as the most ethnically diverse county in the country, is not a typical American community. Many students enrolled in the borough’s high schools are struggling to learn English and adjust to a new academic system.

Factoring in the five-year graduation rate, the picture improves: 71.1 percent of students citywide made the grade in 2012 and 73.2 percent after six years, Bloomberg administration data show.

But what about the prospects for the high school students in Queens and the rest of the city who are wandering around without a high school diploma when the job market is shrinking and skilled workers are in demand?

And there are no guarantees that a diploma means students are prepared for college. Even though the number of 2012 grads in Queens who are considered college-ready rose this year to 24.5 percent, three-quarters require remedial classes to meet CUNY standards.

The Bloomberg administration claims it has made great gains since 2005, when the citywide graduation rate was an abysmal 46.5 percent. That may be true, but the education system is still bleeding and needs more dedicated teachers, fewer school closings and less teaching to the test.

Peace must be made among the next mayor, the educators and the parents of those being educated. It’s time for all the players to unite behind a common goal: Upgrade the high school curriculum and lift the graduation rate to produce future classes of New Yorkers equipped to lead the city.

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