Updated 02/23/2012 11:50 PM
Audit: About 300 Public School Students Graduated In 2010 Without All Requirements
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pointed to improvements in the graduation rate as evidence his school reforms have been working, but on Thursday the Department of Education released a year-long audit that found those numbers might not be entirely reliable. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
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At some city high schools, red flags popped up as soon as the Department of Education started looking at data used to calculate whether students should get a diploma. When auditors looked closely at 53 schools, they found almost 300 students who graduated in 2010 shouldn't have.
"I think this is probably the toughest internal assessment by an auditor-general of any school district in the country," said City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
At Landmark High School, 69 students got diplomas. But auditors found five had not passed the required Regents exams, 35 were missing credits and 27 were short on Physical Education requirements.
The school said one student had moved away, but there was no paperwork to support that claim that he or she had not just dropped out.
"Most of what we saw appeared to be inadvertent error or omission," said an auditor.
At nine schools, the auditors found errors they suspect may be the result of staffers fudging the numbers. The schools under investigation are:
Bronx Aerospace High School
School for International Studies
PULSE High School
Fordham Leadership Academy
Brooklyn School for Music and Theater
John Adams High School
Fort Hamilton High School
Hillcrest High School
"The big suspicion is are schools making mistakes that are a result of the pressures of this field, in order to boost their graduation rates and their credit accumulation rates, and what this audit is claiming is that most of the time these mistakes are in fact inadvertent. Now that doesn't really absolve the department of making sure that people know the rules, " said Aaron Pallas of Teachers College.
The DOE is making several major policy changes. The biggest shift may be that starting next school year, high schools will no longer grade their own students' Regents exams and officials are also tightening requirements for something called "Credit Recovery," a policy that lets students quickly make up credits for classes they failed.
For the first time, the DOE is also giving schools a written guide spelling out exactly what students need to earn a diploma.
The DOE is not going to go back and revoke diplomas from the several hundred graduated students who the audit identified as short on requirements. But some schools' graduation rates have been recalculated to include some of what audit found, like the 404 students who should have been counted as dropouts.