Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that for the first time in recent history, the city’s high school graduation rate has surpassed 70 percent for those graduating in four years. It’s great to hear some excellent news about our schools.
Credit should also go to de Blasio’s predecessor, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who single-handily restructured the entire school system and brought Career and Technical Education schools to the city for the first time in decades. Though we were opposed to some of his policies – notably the closing of Jamaica High School just as its graduation rate rose to around 50 percent – we acknowledge that the success Bloomberg had was his ability to gain total control over the educational system, which no mayor had been able to secure.
The fears that de Blasio’s new policies would roll back successes have proven to be unfounded. We’re still on an upward trajectory.
However, the city still lags behind the state and national averages, though the gap has narrowed dramatically. De Blasio’s goal is 80 percent, but the city should be reaching even higher – 100 percent graduation rate. How do we get there?
We should learn and expand on the current policies now being implemented. First, we need to make sure all schools, especially the struggling ones, are adequately funded and given the resources they need. If a school is still failing, the mayor should reevaluate the situation and explore closure as one option.
We also need to tackle the overcrowding problems throughout the system. Certainly, a new high school is needed in Northeast Queens and the community and School Construction Authority need to work together on finding an adequate location after three previous sites were rejected. Finally, we should continue the growth of CTE schools. Giving students a chance at professional development at a young age, should they choose it, will improve their chances at getting a good job after graduation.
If you had asked New Yorkers two or three decades ago if they thought we’d ever be in a place where we’d be talking about 70 percent graduation rates within four years in our high schools, cynicism would have probably reigned supreme. But we did, and now we should reach for 100 percent and not accept anything less. It can be done.