Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Two important education laws requiring more transparency from DOE passed today!

Today, along with the budget, the City Council approved two new important bills requiring more transparent reporting from the DOE.
According to the first bill, 354-A, the DOE will now be required to report each year by June 30 on the number of students discharged by individual schools and systemwide, as well as by discharge code, so we will know better what is happening to the thousands of students that continue to leave NYC high schools each year before graduation but are not counted as dropouts. 
Some students move out of state or transfer to parochial and private schools, but many transfer to GED programs or alternative schools where they do not have a chance to graduate with a real diploma, and currently we have no idea how many are in each category.  Moreover, the percent of 9th graders who are discharged from high school has doubled under this administration, without any explanation. 
I am particularly proud of this bill because the work of Class Size Matters helped bring more prominence to this issue.  See the discharge rate report  that we released in 2009 by lead author Jennifer Jennings, this story in the NY Times which covered our findings, and our testimony in support of this bill in January.  An audit we asked for from the State Comptroller’s office, along with then-Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum released in March found that 15-20% of the students reported as discharges by DOE should really have been reported as dropouts.
The other bill, 364-A,  just passed by the Council, will report on the fate of students at the closing schools; whether they are discharged, drop out, or are given credit recovery to graduate before the school closes its doors.  For more on this issue, see our blog posting about the hearings.  If students are behind credits at the closing schools – which many are – they have not been allowed by DOE to transfer to other degree-bearing regular high schools, and there have been sky-high discharge and dropout rates at many of these schools. Hopefully this bill will provide DOE more incentive to ensure that students are not left behind when their school phases out.
At the hearings in January, DOE officials made the absurd claim that these two bills violated FERPA, or federal privacy protections, and  threatened that they would not comply with the laws as written  even though they contain language that specifically gives them a pass if the number of students in any category is so small that individuals might be able to be identified. I hope they have changed their mind and will report this critical information responsibly and accurately.

Good news; the DOE says they will comply with these two laws, according to this report in GothamSchools:  Bills will hold DOE’s feet to fire on discharge, graduation rates


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Leonie. I'm proud to support ClassSize matters. In fact, I'm going to sit down and write you a check right now!

Anonymous said...

"At the hearings in January, DOE officials made the absurd claim that these two bills violated FERPA, or federal privacy protections, and threatened that they would not comply with the laws as written. . ."

The DOE already ignores rules regarding contracts and how it is supposed to allocate money it gets from the state to reduce class sizes. Why should this be any different. The politicians in Albany and in the Council need to tell Bloomberg, Walcott, and their cronies that they need to follow the rules or that they will be held personally responsible and hit them in the only place they can be hurt - their pocket books.