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Graduation Rates Up, Preparedness Down: No Cause for CUNY Celebration

posted Feb 13, 2017, 11:04 PM by Emily Tai   [ updated Mar 2, 2017, 12:05 AM by Jay Weiser ]
By Philip Pecorino

Both the State and the City of New York have recently reported a rise in high school graduation rates.  But c
ollege preparedness still leaves much to be desired.  It presents a major challenge for colleges that admit students whose reading, writing and mathematical skills are not at the level needed for academic success. 

Real college readiness levels

Close to 80 percent of the Department of Education (DOE) graduates entering CUNY in the Fall of 2015 needed remediation of some kind. While the NYC DOE cites a 79 percent 
 graduation rate as evidence that schools are improving, only an average 37 percent of students graduate college-ready. College readiness sank to 1.9 percent last year at the FDNY High School for Fire and Life Safety in Brooklyn, which had an 83 percent graduation rate in 2016. Bronxdale High School boasts of a 76 percent graduation rate for their 430 students, but only 4 percent of graduates received qualifying scores on CUNY placement exams

Changing Standards

Both the State and City have been altering their standards 
for graduation to boost those numbers. Now CUNY has changed its requirements and methods for placing people into remedial classes. 

What this portends remains to be seen for students just entering into credit bearing courses with skills that are even lower than in the recent past. One strategy is to provide a non-algebra path to a degree. Such intellectual skills and mental habits as might be inculcated by the mastery of algebra are thus being set aside in the hopes that those no longer burdened by graduation requirements including algebra will graduate and find some sort of employment.

But will we have given these students the best education possible? 

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Philip Pecorino is a professor of Philosophy at Queensborough Community College, where he chairs the Faculty Executive Committee. He also serves on the UFS Executive Committee. He wishes to thank Kathleen Barker, a Professor of Psychology at Medgar Evers College, and UFS Vice-Chair, for several references in this article.

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