2007-05-25 / Community

Local High Schools Perform Below State Average

FRHS Among Poorest Performing In Queens
By Miriam Rosenberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at FRHS in 2005 when the school was removed from the "Most Dangerous" list. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at FRHS in 2005 when the school was removed from the "Most Dangerous" list.

Sixty-seven percent of students in New York State who started ninth grade in 2002 graduated in four years. Yet, Far Rockaway High School's rate of graduation is a little more than half of the state average, cited in data recently released by the State Board of Regents and the State Education Department concerning the graduation rates in all New York State high schools.

The data reveals a stark contrast between FRHS, which has a 38 percent graduation rate after four years, and other New York City high schools, and Beach Channel High School which has a 50 percent graduation rate that is equal to the 2006 four-year rate for New York City.

Thirty-one percent of the 276 students who enrolled in Far Rockaway High School in 2002 dropped out, as opposed to 14 percent of the 572 Beach Channel High School students who enrolled in the same year.

The overall four-year graduation rate for New York City increased from 44 percent to 50 percent in 2006. Mayor Michael Bloomberg hailed the report as proof the city's schools are on the right track.

"The State Department of Education has confirmed that the high school graduation rate in the city public schools is continuing to climb," said Bloomberg in a radio address last month.

"The four and five year graduation rates have risen substantially during the past two school years, which means that more and more of our young people are leaving school better prepared for the challenges of today's highly competitive economy."

While Bloomberg was happy with the good news, he did not discount the work that still needs to be done.

"Now that doesn't mean we are resting on our laurels," continued Bloomberg. "The fact remains that far too many of our students are not graduating on time. But, there's no question we are moving in the right direction."

The statewide four-year rate rose only one percent when compared to the students who entered ninth grade in 2001. The state's low four-year graduation increase caused State Education Commissioner Richard Mills and Regents Chancellor Robert M. Bennett to sound an alarm about education in the state.

"The statewide graduation average has gone up only slightly and is unacceptably low," said Mills. "There are some bright spots. Graduation rates of African Americans and Hispanic students have increased. New York City has gained. But we still have far to go."

Bennett pointed out the urgency in improving the rates.

"The graduation rate must improve much faster," said Bennett. "Unless students graduate and continue their education, their lifetime earnings will not support their families or themselves." He continued by saying, "Business as usual in lower-performing schools is not acceptable. We know what works. The Board of Regents and the Education Department will help."

In addition to the statistics, the document suggested several ways to increase graduation rates.

"Make sure the support systems are in place: attendance taking and analysis, social services, [and] guidance."

The Board of Regents and the Education Department recommend that support systems be implemented to include: "tell[ing] entering ninth graders that some will graduate in four years, and others have skills that we will work on, and they too will graduate in years five or six. Let no one feel excluded or like a failure; work on those skills through morning, afternoon and evening sessions in flexible groups so students can easily move to a new group to learn the next skill set as they progress.

Use short diagnostic tests often during the year to check gains in the skills measured by the standards and the Regents exams. Keep reassessing to ensure that students really grasp the content; by the middle of ninth grade, the students needing intensive help get an advocate, who is a teacher committed to talking with each of the 15 students in that teacher's care every single day; in June of [the] senior year, identify students who are a credit or two away from graduation.

Assign someone to stay in daily contact with each of them and their families. Support the students through summer school and the August Regents and graduation; and schedule twice-weekly meetings of teachers to examine student work, teacher practice, and the interim assessments that gauge student progress. Share the notes from these professional conversations."

Far Rockaway High School is among the four schools with the worst graduation rate in Queens. The other schools are Springfield Gardens High School (31 percent), Business/ Computer Application High School in Cambria Heights (34 percent) and Flushing High School (39 percent).

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