Lies, damned lies and statistics


Most of the news stories focusing on high school graduation rates trumpet the fact that the rate in New York State has stabilized at 74 percent after a few years of rapid growth.

That satisfies lots of people who don’t know better, because the graduation rate apparently justifies the state and federal unfunded curriculum mandates and high-stakes testing program.

That statistic that shows a 74 percent graduation rate statewide is, as with most statistics prepared by political units, is largely misleading.

Lies, damned lies and statistics.

The fact is that many school districts in Nassau County and its environs do far worse and that even in those districts that approach the state average are hiding problems within that number.

The first problem comes to light when looking at the numbers when they are disaggregated by race and economics.

State Board of Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch expressed her “concern about the low percentage of students graduating college and career ready, especially students of color, English language learners and students with disabilities.”

What concerned her was the performance gap between high need and low need districts, with nearly 94 percent of students in low need districts graduating while only 65 percent of students from high need suburban and urban districts earning a high school diploma. The college and career readiness gap is even higher.

In New York City, for example, the graduation rate is 60.4 percent, while the percentage of students the state believes is ready for college or career falls at 44 percent.

Take a look at some of the Nassau County school districts and the problem becomes clear.

Oceanside, for example, graduates 92.6 percent of its seniors. Of those, the state figures that 50.6 percent of those who graduate are ready for either college or a career, based on the number of students who scored 80 percent or better on the Mathematics Regents and 75 or higher on the English Regents. That’s what the state calls the “state college preparedness level.”

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