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More Students Passing Regents, but Achievement Gap Persists
March 18, 2004 | By TAMAR LEWIN | New York Times
Despite increasingly tough requirements, more students are passing the Regents exams, state education officials said yesterday as they released high school report cards.
But they also said the achievement gap between white children and minority children remained large.
"More students are achieving higher standards each year," said the state education commissioner, Richard P. Mills. "The number of graduates is staying constant, even with higher standards."
But he also pointed out: "There are too many students who arrive at high school not prepared to do high school work, too many students who arrive at high school reading, writing and doing math at the elementary level. We have to correct the problem in the earlier grades."
New York City's school chancellor, Joel I. Klein, used the new statistics to underscore the need to end social promotion and to buttress the city's decision this week to impose tough new promotion requirements for third graders. At a news conference, he said he had asked his staff to analyze how many students were being held back in 9th and 10th grades and found that about 36 percent of the city's students are retained for a second year in 9th grade, and about 43 percent in 10th grade.
"These kinds of data are obviously enormously, enormously troubling," he said.
Statewide, more than 85 percent of students who had been in high school for four years passed all five of their required Regents exams last year. Because New York has raised its standards over several years, last year's graduating class was the first that was required to pass five Regents exams with a score of at least 55 on each.
While the number of students taking Regents exams is rising, the proportion who pass the exams is not showing such steady improvement. Since 1997, the percentage passing English and math has fallen, while the percentage passing global and United States history and biology has risen.
One unequivocal sign of higher achievement has been an increase in the number of students earning the Regents diploma, for which they must pass eight Regents exams with a score of at least 65. Last year, 56 percent of the state's graduates got a Regents diploma, compared with 40 percent in 1996.
But Mr. Mills said the achievement gap was still problematic.
Only 61 percent of Hispanic children and 65 percent of black children who started high school in 1999 had reached senior year by June 2003, compared with 94 percent of white children and 82 percent of Asian children.
But even those numbers present a somewhat rosy view of the data, since they do not include children who dropped out during their first two years of high school, transferred to a different district or entered a General Education Development program after October 2001.
Among the students who entered high school in 1998, 20 percent of the black students were still enrolled in 2003, 14 percent had dropped out, and 6 percent had transferred to a high school equivalency, or G.E.D., program, according to the state data. Among the Hispanic students in that group, 23 percent were still enrolled, 17 percent had dropped out, and 5 percent had transferred to a G.E.D. program. Among the white students, though, only 4 percent were still enrolled, 4 percent had dropped out, and 2 percent had transferred to a high school equivalency program.
"Minority students who get to senior year do just as well as everyone else, but if a student hasn't passed courses, or hasn't made it to senior year, it's quite different," Mr. Mills said.
By many measures, New York City schools fared particularly badly on yesterday's report cards. Statewide, 95 percent of the students who started high school in 1999 were seniors four years later, but in New York City, only 63 percent had completed enough credits to be seniors.
In every subject, New York City students pass the Regents exams at a lower rate than those elsewhere in the state, and a far greater proportion of New York City students have not been tested.
On the English test, for example, 75.9 percent of the students who entered the city's high schools in 1999 passed with at least a 55, compared with 93.5 percent of those who entered an average district in the state that year. At the same time, 17.3 percent of the city students had not taken the test, compared with the statewide average of 5.2 percent in the average district.
Achievement levels remain dismal at many of the city's largest high schools: at William H. Taft in the Bronx and Bushwick in Brooklyn, for example, most students did not have a passing grade on a single one of the five required Regents exams.
|produced by Naava Katz Design|