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City's Graduation Rate Remains Flat For Third Year In A Row

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided Wednesday to announce city graduation rates seven months ahead of the official state release, saying that he wanted to celebrate record gains while still in office, but the uptick in the numbers is actually old news. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

He built a school system accountable to numbers - test scores, graduation rates, teacher ratings, school grades - and now that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is focused on his legacy, it's no surprise he's pointing to the numbers again.

On Tuesday, he announced students have better SAT scores, and on Wednesday, his press release touted "all-time record high school graduation rates."

"Further evidence of the incredible progress that New York City students are making, and the success our school reforms have had in transitioning and transforming an educational system that was once a case study in dysfunction into one that is reaching new heights of achievement every year," Bloomberg said.

For the past three years, though, the city's graduation rate has actually been flat. Almost all of the gains he's celebrating happened years ago.

When the state first calculated the four-year graduation rate in 2005, just 46.5 percent of city students earned a diploma by June. By 2010, 61 percent graduated on time. Now, it's 61.3 percent. When students who graduated by August 2013 are included, 66 percent of city students graduated.

Requirements have gotten more strict. The state no longer offers the easier, so-called "local" diploma. When NY1 asked the mayor about the graduation rate being almost stagnant, he pointed to that change.

Bloomberg: Well, it is true that local diplomas have been phased out. Now, it's just the Regents diplomas. Shael, do you want to...
Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief academic officer, Department of Education: Now that kids are used to the standard, the graduation rate has started to rise, and I think if we continue this work, we'll see it continue to see it rise.

However, the next administration has said it will not continue many of the current policies.

"It's not up to tell them what to do," Bloomberg said. "What we can say is, this is what we've done and here are the results, and I'll leave the interpretation and the connection between the two to you and to future historians."

But what does he hope makes the history books?

"I don't know how to answer your question. I don't know what historians or journalists can do," he said. "I can tell you what I will remember. I will remember an education system that came out dramatically better for all kids, on average."

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