The NYC Department of Education (DOE) needs to step up its efforts to prepare students for their next steps after high school, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
The audit examined whether public-school students completed high school by their expected graduation date and possessed the skills needed to obtain or complete higher education, such as at a college or trade school. The audit found a significant number of students did not graduate on time and were not prepared for higher education or to obtain employment, and identified significant racial, ethnic and geographic disparities in college readiness.
“It is the DOE’s responsibility to ensure that New York’s children are provided with an educational foundation that helps them achieve their full potential and realize their dreams,” DiNapoli said. “The DOE must make sure students are ready for their next steps after high school and should prioritize elementary and middle school intervention in city school districts where large numbers of students do not graduate high school.”
DOE considers students college ready if they meet its criteria for graduating high school, are able to make an informed decision about their immediate next steps, can enter higher education without remedial instruction and can persist on a path that leads to a degree, a credential or employment that pays wages that can support a family.
Auditors looked at 71,210 students who were expected to graduate high school in 2019 and examined graduation rates, college enrollment and whether students stayed in college.
Nearly one-in-four (23%) did not graduate by their expected high school graduation date. The percentage of students who did not graduate varied widely among school districts, from a low of 9% in District 4, which covers parts of Harlem, to a high of 49% in District 23, which includes Ocean Hill and Brownsville in Brooklyn.
Racial disparities were also identified. Fifty percent of the students who did not graduate by their expected date were Hispanic, 30% were Black, and all other ethnicities made up the remaining 20%. Of the 71,210 students in the sample, 63% graduated and enrolled in college. However, 38% (23,314) of those students did not stay in college for at least six months.
Graduation from high school and enrollment in college alone do not indicate whether a student is college ready, however. Auditors looked at a random sample of 291 of the 71,210 students and compared their educational background against the DOE’s definition of college readiness, how they did in elementary and middle school, and whether they stayed in college for at least 18 months.
Auditors found nearly half (131) of the 291 students were not college ready by DOE’s standards because they either didn’t graduate high school on time (75) or were not academically proficient (56) based on their scores on standardized state tests. Of the 216 students who did graduate from high school on time, 176 enrolled in college, with 154 of those students persisting in college for at least 18 months. It was not clear how many of the college enrollees who met DOE’s criteria for college readiness had to take remedial courses.
The audit analyzed early elementary and middle school indicators of students’ college readiness. Students who struggled with standardized tests in elementary or middle school were more likely to not be college ready later as they progressed in their education. According to DiNapoli’s audit, the vast majority of the 131 students deemed to not be college ready were also not proficient in ELA (English Language Arts) or math based on their performance on standardized state tests in elementary and middle school. Conversely, the majority of the 160 students who were college ready tested as proficient on the same standardized tests in elementary grades
Auditors also found that students’ proficiency dropped significantly between elementary and middle schools. DiNapoli’s audit emphasized that educators need to examine what happens during these years in a student’s schooling and step up its efforts to give students the support and resources they need at this point and not wait until later in high school.
DiNapoli’s recommendations included that DOE:
- Assess and support school districts with high percentages of students not graduating high school or making it through college.
- Look into why students were assessed as not college ready and use the information to assist students and schools in improving proficiency levels.
- Analyze annual state assessment test results as early as elementary and middle school to identify students who may need additional help becoming college ready.
In its response, DOE generally agreed with the findings of the audit. The complete response is available in the audit.
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