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Editorial: NYC graduation rate gets an 'incomplete'

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images) (Credit: (Getty Images))

No one thinks the New York City public school system's 64.7 percent high school graduation rate is a cause for celebration. But when Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that achievement this week for the Class of 2012, school reformers in every part of every borough felt a powerful sense of relief.

That's because members of the Class of 2012 were the city's first to get their diplomas without a chance to jump off the most exacting path and take a local diploma. Starting with the 2012 class, students who wanted to graduate had to pass five state exams and earn a Regents diploma.

Some experts predicted disaster. But as a matter of fact, the roof didn't fall in. While the graduation rate dipped slightly -- by 0.8 percent from 2011 to 2012 -- it essentially held steady. This is a welcome indication that hard-fought reforms won by Albany and City Hall are taking hold.

Still, we have miles to go. Most glaringly, the figures also show that more than a third of city high-school students are not getting a diploma within four years.

Meanwhile, troubling student achievement gaps persist along lines of ethnicity and economic status.

Asian students today have an 82.1 percent graduation rate, according to city figures, and for whites, the rate is 78.1 percent. At the same time, it is 59.8 percent for blacks and 57.5 percent for Hispanics.

The results are an "ongoing tragedy," Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said this week as the state released its own graduation figures, compiled using slightly different calculations. Most of the students who do graduate still aren't ready for college, she added.

The messages here are profound.

Arduous city and state reforms are working. Graduation rates improved 54 percent among Hispanic students in 2012 over similar rates in 2005. They improved 50 percent among black students since 2005.

But we're only getting started. New York City will not reach its full potential until it can adequately prepare all of its students for the demanding future that awaits them.

For all of our progress, we're not even close.

Tags: OPINION , ARTICLE , AMNY , LIVE

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