Ousted for Stats?
by Ellen Yan, Newsday.com, November 21, 2002
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Thousands of struggling students were discharged by high
school administrators more concerned about their own job
evaluations than the students' futures, say some public
officials and children's advocates.
An estimated 55,000 students were discharged last year, some
for legitimate reasons such as cutting school or turning 21
years old, but many were pushed out to keep them from dragging
down school graduation rates and percentages of passing test
scores, according to Robin Brown, co-chair of the Chancellor's
Parent Advisory Council, educators and other children's
advocates studying the emerging issue. The critics, including
parents, say many students could have remained but were
encouraged to seek a general equivalency diploma.
The discharged are believed to include immigrants who have
trouble speaking English, students with special education
problems, and others who fell behind on credits needed to
graduate, according to parents and advocates tracking the
issue. Many were black or Hispanic boys, ages 16 and 17, they
The problem is drawing attention, with one study to be
released today by the city's public advocate's office and the
nonprofit Advocates for Children, Inc.
"It's more expedient for the school system to push them out
than try to educate them," contended Jacob Morris, director of
the Society for Equitable Education, a nonprofit advocate
group in Manhattan that is studying the issue.
"I was taking up space - that was the answer they gave me,"
Jean Remarque, 18, told Newsday after having been discharged
by his Brooklyn public high school last year, when he was a
The dean made it happen, he contended. "She was forcing me to
sign up for GED," Remarque said. "She was telling my mother,
'He's smart. Let him go get a GED because he can get into
college by summertime.' "
Discharged students are viewed as transfers, and don't affect
the percentages that can be important to an administrator's
The problem has grown, critics say, since the school system is
now offering bonuses to administrators for improved
statistical results, such as the percentage of students
passing the Regents exams and the graduation rate.
Two years ago the issue began raising red flags among parents
of displaced teenagers and professional advocates, when the
problem ballooned due to the introduction of higher test
standards and an increase in the credits required for
graduation. Students began flooding adult education and GED
programs, quadrupling the waiting lists in some cases.
"We always had students dropping out and coming to us, but
now, students are being referred by guidance counselors and
attendance teachers, and they come with their referral slips,"
said Edith Gnanadass, deputy executive director of the Turning
Point/Discipleship Outreach Ministry in Brooklyn, which works
with discharged students. "They were being pushed out rather
than dropping out."
After receiving complaints from parents, Brown sent a memo
recently to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, urging him to look
into the matter.
"Schools are there to provide students the opportunity to meet
the standard requirements in order to receive a high school
diploma," Klein spokesman David Chai said. "Offering anything
less is unacceptable, and the chancellor will not support any
policy that does otherwise and will review any data that
doesn't support the core mission."
A top Klein aide who has read the study being released today
said the estimate of 55,000 students discharged last year is
misleading because it's unclear how many of them were
transfers to other schools.
The principals' union and the teachers' union, which
represents guidance counselors, declined to comment.
Some parents believe the problem is largely tied to
evaluations. "If you're being evaluated based on the
graduation rate and you have a merit system based on the
graduation rate, there is no incentive to help students who
are having difficulties," Brown said.
Advised to get a GED three years ago, Genevieve Salley, 18,
spent a half-year out of school working out family problems
before the Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School
"I don't think GED should be an option if you're old enough to
be in school," Salley said. "People will look at you
differently if you have a high school diploma rather than a