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Study Finds Wide Variations in Preparation, Graduation of NYC Students

A new report out this morning on graduation rates at New York City high schools finds that a student's 8th grade attendance rate was the strongest predictor of whether that student would later graduate with his or her peers.

The report, released today by the New York City-based Campaign for Fiscal Equity, also found that students who are English-language learners, overage for their grade, had physical or learning disabilities, or scored poorly on 8th grade reading and mathematics exams were also less likely to graduate.

These students sometimes were clumped together in schools. The report notes, for instance, that 30 schools enrolling fewer than 10 percent of first-time 9th graders in 2004 attracted more than half of the students scoring at the lowest levels on state tests.

"Our report calls for an intensive concentration of resources on pre-high school remediation and on policy reform to reduce absenteeism and provide better school opportunities to students with academic challenges," CFE Executive Director Geri Palast said in a release.

"Absent meaningful change, it's conceivable that within a few years, New York City will have a school system in which the majority of students—and the overwhelming number of those who are disadvantaged—have, not just poor test scores, but no high school diploma and reduced life prospects," she continued.

One of the group's recommendations is that more funds be directed toward those elementary and middle schools with the highest concentrations of disadvantaged students. CFE is perhaps best known for winning a landmark lawsuit arguing that New York state chronically and unconstitutionally underfunded city schools.

The report also recommends a recalibration of the school-accountability system to put a higher focus on attendance and the expansion of "educational option" schools, a type of alternative school the district launched in the 1980s that CFE believes would provide more challenge for high- and low-achieving students alike.

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