Press Release

The following can be attributed to Ian Rosenblum, Executive Director of The Education Trust–New York:

“New York State’s continued incremental progress in increasing high school graduation rates and decreasing gaps is movement in the right direction.

At the same time, the significant and increasing reliance on Local diplomas for historically under-served groups of students raises important equity questions as the Regents undertake their review of high school graduation measures. While Local diplomas can serve as a safety net for students who otherwise struggle on exit exams, disproportionate reliance by school districts on Local diplomas for historically under-served groups of students could signify problems with instructional rigor, inadequate support, and lack of equitable access to challenging coursework.

For example, while the state’s overall high school graduation rate increased by 1.6 percentage points from 2016 to 2019, 86% of this increase was the result of greater use of Local diplomas. The numbers are even starker for students who are low-income, where the overall high school graduation rate increase of 1.8 percentage points from 2016 to 2019 is entirely the result of a higher Local diploma rate increase over that period. From 2018 to 2019 alone, the high school graduation rate increase for Black students of 1.6 percentage points is made up of a 1.2 percentage point increase in the Local diploma rate and only a 0.4 percentage point increase in the Regents diploma rate.

The State Education Department’s emphasis on increasing access to high level coursework as part of its strategies for increasing opportunities to support students is vital. The Regents’ plan to review graduation measures is a thoughtful and deliberate step that can ensure that all students are held to high expectations and participate in a wide range of gatekeeper and advanced courses and other learning opportunities that help demonstrate that they are prepared for college, careers, and active citizenship.

We renew our call on state leaders to take significant steps this year to improve access to advanced courses and eliminate enrollment barriers that stand in the way of student success and educational equity.”