NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Pushouts" Growing in New York City Schools

July 31, 2003

Growing numbers of students -- most of them struggling academically -- are being pushed out of New York City's school system and classified under bureaucratic categories that hide their failure to graduate, say observers:

  • Officially the city's dropout rate hovers around 20 percent, but critics say that if the students who are pushed out were included, that number could be 25 to 30 percent.
  • More than 55,000 high school students were discharged during the 2000-1 school year -- a number far higher than that year's graduating class of fewer than 34,000 -- according to a report by the city's public advocate and Elisa Hyman, a lawyer with Advocates for Children.

City data make it impossible to determine just how many students are being pushed out, where they are going and what becomes of them. But experts who have examined the statistics and administrators of high school equivalency programs say that the number of "pushouts" seems to be growing, with students shunted out at ever-younger ages.

These students are an unintended consequence of the effort to hold schools accountable for raising standards, claim observers. As students are being spurred to new levels of academic achievement and required to pass stringent Regents exams to get their high school diplomas, many schools are trying to get rid of those who may tarnish the schools' statistics by failing to graduate on time. Even though state law gives students the right to stay in high school until they are 21, many students are being counseled, or even forced, to leave long before then.

Source: Tamara Lewin and Jennifer Medina, "To Cut Failure Rate, Schools Shed Students." New York Times, July 31, 2003.


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