You might not think a high school dropout would care if the city wanted to close his old school. But that's not the case with one young man who attended Paul Robeson High School and is now helping fight to keep it open. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
James Beca dropped out of Paul Robeson High School in June 2008. His father was sick, he struggled to understand the work and after falling behind on credits and failing to graduate on time, he was too embarrassed and discouraged to come back. But teachers kept calling him, and now, a year and a half later, he came back to update those teachers on the progress of his GED class, get help with job applications and to defend the school against the Department of Education's proposal to shut it down.
"They try to help all these kids that's not attending the school. I mean honest truth, somebody was knocking at my door," Beca said.
Last year, only 40 percent of the students at Paul Robeson graduated in four years, and the Department of Education says that's the primary reason the school should be closed. But students and teachers say it's not a fair measurement, since many of the students begin 9th grade already way behind.
Still, the DOE says the students who choose to attend Robeson actually have a lower graduation rate than the students who are assigned to the school. Beca chose Robeson, and says he would still choose it, even though he left without a diploma.
"The teachers at Paul Robeson High School they try they best, work they butt off, do research on the computer, stay here until 6 p.m. and try to help these students graduate on time," Beca said.
Teachers argue that at schools like Robeson, the DOE should consider the five and six year graduation rates, not just the four year rate.
"We want to come up with this formula that fits everyone but not every child is going to be able to graduate in four years, particularly you know students who have issues with special ed, who may have challenges, you know, learning disabilities or children who are having problems at home, whether its that the parents are drug addicted or incarcerated or whatever the issues are," said Robeson High School counselor Anna Torres.
Education officials say they don't believe any excuse is big enough to explain away a 40 percent graduation rate.