Getting “College Readiness” Right(s)

A new Center for New York City Affairs report entitled “Creating College Ready Communities” provides additional evidence that many NYC students are being shortchanged on the educational opportunities they must have to meet state learning standards and the basic supports they need to be ready to succeed in and graduate from college. The report is based on four years of “front-line” research in 12 high schools and two middle schools, all with large numbers of students from families in or near poverty. Their researchers also interviewed more than 250 educators, guidance counselors, college experts and policymakers and surveyed more than 300 students and teachers. Although the Center’s report avoids pointing fingers, its findings are an indictment of the city and state governments’ failure to fulfill their legal and moral obligations to New York’s children.

Many of the findings highlighted in the Center’s report came as no surprise to the Campaign for Educational Equity team, as much of the data mirror findings from our Deficient Resources report detailing the resource gaps in 33 high-need schools in eight districts throughout New York State, including 12 schools in New York City. The fact that these serious inadequacies, some of which violate state law, have been documented in more schools raises additional red flags that students’ educational rights are being widely violated.

NYC Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott in 2011 announced that the city’s goal would be “making sure all of our children are college ready and ready to work.” The Center’s report notes that while the city has made inroads in better preparing students for college, many significant hurdles remain. In New York City, about 25% of students drop out of college by the end of freshman year. Among students who entered ninth grade in a typical public high school in 2007, only about half graduated from high school and enrolled in college on time. In the City University of New York system, the college destination for most NYC students pursuing higher education, the average three-year graduation rate for community colleges is an abysmal 16% and the average six-year graduation rate for four-year colleges is only 54%.

The Center’s report draws clear lines from the lack of necessary instructional support and college-related guidance at the school level to the poor college outcomes of NYC students. In future blog posts, we will highlight some of these findings, as well as our own parallel conclusions.

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