From the Times Ledger:
The city Department of Education and the public advocate’s office are at odds over whether city graduation rates have been inflated during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure after Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum released a report last Thursday that calls into question why discharged students are not counted in graduation rate statistics.
Graduation rates have skyrocketed 12 percentage points from 51 percent in 2002, when Bloomberg took control of the schools, to 63 percent in 2007, according to city statistics.
Written by Jennifer Jennings, a doctoral student at Columbia University, and Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, a group that advocates for more checks on mayoral control of schools, the report states these graduation numbers would be “substantially” lower should the statistics include discharged students, or pupils who leave the school system without graduating.
Students can be labeled as discharged for a wide variety of reasons, including transferring to a school outside the city or entering a parochial institution.
The number of students discharged rose from 17.5 percent for the graduating class of 2000 to more than 20 percent for the class of 2007.
DOE spokesman Andy Jacob said more than 90 percent of discharges are students who leave for benign reasons, such as moving out of the city.
But critics of the school system said school officials can misuse the discharge policy and enter student drop−outs as discharges in order to artificially inflate the graduation rate.