June 9, 1983

© 1983, 2002


The recent transfer to mayoral control of the New York City school system by New York State portends an outstanding opportunity to improve educational success among the City's school-age children. The Mayor has pledged to hire more teachers, increase resources, improve parental engagement and hold management accountable for better performance. The administration's resolve can be so little in doubt that only one obstacle may still stand in the way of an all-at-once change in the educational attainment of present-day New York City school-age children.

At least on the surface this obstacle does not appear at all implacable, for it is only the necessity of assuring that the steps to be taken are assessed within the context of the entire school-age population of New York City. This is an expanded constituency in terms of local government reporting of educational results. The welcome possibility is brought about by the change to mayoral administration of developing more certainty about the circumstances of the city's children.

"One Child, One Voice" is used here to refer to the comprehensive and renewable analysis of the school-age population of New York City that is needed. The phrase brings with it the idea that each New York City child deserves equable consideration and was also used for a 1992 documentary on children in developing countries. A New York City publication of that name containing completely honest findings needed to solve the problem would influence the world financial community's confidence in the city as a financial center for countries with their own problems. If an all-at-once improvement in educational attainment actually takes place, the city must change, rather positively, as a business environment.

In its own time, the report reproduced below exemplified research on the school-age population that could have made a difference. Today, expanded data and methodology are both needed for the execution of proper "One Child, One Voice" research. A detailed proposal remains to be written. The needed methods are discussed in my dissertation, deployed at least at the level of pages 96-99, graphed on 119-120.

In order to attend to the problem discussed in that section, sufficient biometric data would have to be located. Given the complexity of influences New York City imposes on children's educational success, the effort that should be made would utilize internal data from all city departments whose activities are relevant to educational success. The report below speaks only to the school system. Practically speaking, the work of most city departments can be seen to have some impact on educational success, either through interactions directly with children or parents or by influencing their environment. If conducted in this context, "One Child, One Voice" research would have a positive impact in helping focus broad government attention, and initiative, on what is, after all, a shared problem.

Broad terms of increased sophistication are also needed because New York City's deficits of educational success are of considerable historical depth and tenacity. Besides any statistical retrospective to be developed in research, one proof of this is the report below, many of whose findings remain valid. It was first published in June 1983, nineteen years ago, by Aspira of New York, who partially sponsored the research. The widely circulated press summary contained the first local ethnic dropout rates and so received considerable local media attention. Representatives of the Board of Education however offered obfuscatory objections and the controversy was allowed to die down.

The estimates in the report were supported by research in primary sources not reported below. Subsequently, the Board of Education's Division of Assessment and Accountability (DAA), replacing the Department of Student Information Services, adopted the class-tracking method for the Four Year Graduation and Dropout Reports and Three Year Follow-up Studies for the classes of 1986 and later. However, Special Education students were still counted separately. The aged leaving voluntarily without graduating were "discharged," rather than dropouts until Flash Report #6 (5/2/2002), where however, the age is 17 in table 7 and 21 in the appendix. In addition to presenting graduation data in the manner suggested below, the DAA has often renewed findings such as the tenth grade bulge, lowered success among students without English proficiency, and limited graduation of Special Education students.

One crucial problem in all DAA reporting, unfortunately also mine in 1983, is to have made pervasive use of the word "cohort" when referring to class or other group tracking exercises. The cohort in demographic terminology is most usually an age group in the population. New York City public school classes include representatives from several age cohorts in the population. Distributions by age cohorts need to be much more strongly focused upon in advancing towards "One Child, One Voice" reporting. Each student-age cohort includes enrolled public high school students in various grades, students in non-public high schools similarly situated and persons not enrolled in school who are not routinely discussed in any detail.

Some discussion of age cohorts in the population precedes that of educational success in public high schools in the 1983 report, where instead of "cohort," it would have more accurate to use "sample" or "class" to describe the tracking estimates. The word helped to convey the class-tracking method to official usage, but was inhibitory of research building outwards from student records to other population data and the Census.

Careful analysis of the entire student-age population is also needed to track movements among public, private and no-school groups with various impacts on budgetary needs. The continued severity of the dropout problem may also be a consequence of studying a narrowed population for the last two decades.

Under the auspices of the Manhattan Institute, a recent report by Professor Joseph Vitorriti (2000) used DAA reports and New York State test results from the 1990s to come to conclusions nearly identical to those reached for 1983 below as to the severity of the New York City dropout problem and its ethnic dimensions.

The DAA's Class of 1998 Follow-up Study reported that the narrow graduation rate increased by only 2.6 percentage points over the dozen years between 1989 and 2001. At this rate, 0.32%, the city's graduation rate will equal the 1996 national average of 87% in 2069. The student age cohorts of that time will include many fourth and even some fifth generation descendants of today's NYC students.

In view of this continuity, the reasons identified for the failure to graduate and the recommended actions of the report may remain of interest. They were the product of conversations with many persons from a wide range of constituencies and quoted, at the time, by the Chancellor in his addresses. Over the longer term, political discussion has most focused around reason 1, problems with testing and to a lesser extent reason 2, expansion of special education. Reasons 3, unmet needs for instruction in mother tongues, 4, deficits of multiculturalism in faculty, and especially 5, lack of perception of employment advantages, appear to remain valid.

In completing the research promised, additional reasons focusing on students' family circumstances, health, nutrition and activity, and interactions with city departments mentioned above will be desirable, as will deeper examination of the reasons listed in the report using expanded data and more recent methodology and literature.

The 1983 recommendations were addressed to three government levels. The national recommendations were admonitorily simple and certainly remain relevant, since the problems of educational attainment are still national and support from that direction remains difficult. The proposed "One Child, One Voice" research would cover the target population of the No Child Left Behind Act at a greater degree of detail than required for that program and will aid in its implementation. Technical findings of broader relevance may also emerge prior to the attainment of New York's educational success, from the particular attention to be paid to students' residence and school locations and geographically specific data needed to make findings locally specific. The spatial distribution of educational attainment in other cities will help specify our own; and statistics modeled in detail beyond the city borders are more likely to be well-identified. New York's progress also may prove exemplary on a national level.

The first of the rather encompassing numbered 1983 recommendations was directed at New York State institutions. Aside from broad prescriptions, specific progress in accounting for students was called for. The New York State Education Department continues to report only event-rate dropouts, referred to below as "whole" or "single" rates, and not even those for any district or county of New York City.

The explanation for the lack of excellent data at the state level given in 1983 was the insulation of most upstate school districts by differentially high completion rates notwithstanding lower levels of attainment in upstate cities. These features of state education were also pointed to by Professor Vitorriti in 2000. As to the future, the "One Child, One Voice" research would be at a finer detailed level than the rough comparatives presented below and could no doubt include upstate details at little cost and to some benefit.

The remaining recommendations were aimed at New York City. Recommendations 2, changes in central Board of Education departments, 3, curricular improvements in high schools, 4, increases of minority teacher recruitment and training, 5, halting the expansion of special ungraded status, 6, a new and improved mission for the guidance function, and 7, increased attention to the needs of students whose mother tongue is not English and to curriculum relevant to the Black community, were only partly implemented. Resulting from the wide range of conversations backing them up, much of the phraseology of the detailed recommendations was adoptable independently of substance. A documented review appears be warranted rather than further comment at this stage. It could be one focus of retrospective research for "One Child, One Voice." Recommendation 8, for further research, also presented estimates of seventh-grade dropout that need further research.

The geographic specificity of educational attainment in New York City with its diversity of economic and social climates deserves detailed analysis from the perspective of all youths' circumstances. The narrow data and techniques of the past in use since 1983 have served their purpose in identifying the problem. I would be most pleased to prepare a detailed research proposal. Technically speaking, time-series/cross-sectional local regression and spatial analysis also under development by others are in need of application to new and increasingly detailed data to formulate appropriate responses.

Because the preferred data will not be sample data but rather records of individuals, I am attempting to determine whether official authorization can be obtained to utilize them, anonymously, for "One Child, One Voice" research. As understanding is deepened, hopefully the spirit in much official research to hide the difficulty of changing historical processes will fade with the old methods.

The report is re-presented below in its original language, correcting only for spelling and placing footnotes in brackets where numbers refer to the bibliography.


Educational Attainment
Educational Attainment and Employment of Youths
Non-Public High Schools
Geographic Mobility
Types Of Public High School Diplomas
The Path To Graduation
Reason 2: The Extreme Expansion Of Special Ungraded Classes And The Failure To Develop An Overall Policy To Retain Students
Introduction To The Dropout Rate
Tenth Grade Through Graduation Cohort Analysis
Minority Groups In Grade Ten Through Graduation
The Ninth Grade Dropout Rate
The Ninth Grade Deficit: Aging High Schoolers
Single Grade Dropout Rates
The Overall High School Dropout Rate
The Rising Dropout Rate
The High School Equivalency Examination
The Potential Impact Of Eliminating The Dropout Problem
The Reasons For High School Dropouts
The Traditional Analysis
Reason 1: Inability To Pass The Regents' Tests And Deficiencies In Mathematics, Sciences, And Social Studies
Reason 3: Inadequate Coverage By Bilingual Education Programs
Reason 4: Underrepresentation Of Minority Group Members On Faculties
Reason 5: Insufficient Occupational Preparation Coupled With Low Expectations Of Career Advantages From Graduation
National Recommendations
Recommendation That The New York State Education Department Must Vastly Improve Its Capabilities
Recommendation That The Central Administration Of The New York City Board Of Education Needs To Be Reformed And Improved In Several Areas
Recommendation That A New Curricular Initiative Is Necessary In All The High Schools
Recommendation That A Massive Infusion Of Teachers Recruited From Minority Groups Appears To Be Necessary
Recommendation That The Expansion Of Special Ungraded Status Should Be Brought To A Halt
Recommendation That A New And Vastly Improved Mission Needs To Be Provided For The Guidance Function
Recommendation That Attention Needs To Be Placed On Restructuring The Bilingual Offerings And On Making The Curriculum More Relevant To The Black Community
Recommendation For Additional Research


The New York City Public School system has gained a reputation for making educational opportunity available to all who apply, regardless of their national origin, degree of preparation, or legal status. To the extent that this report criticizes that reputation, it should be clear at the outset, that commitment to educational opportunity is a priority for the vast majority of teachers and administrators. The New York City high schools labor under a tremendous disadvantage in attempting to meet the needs of their students. The fact that so many educators have been able to maintain their commitment in the face of the painful realities found by this investigation is testimony to their courage, and offers hope, that given proper support, they will be able to improve conditions in the future.

This report concentrates on conditions in the New York City public schools. Most minority students in New York State are New York City residents who attend public schools. However in New York City itself, all racial and ethnic groups are in the minority. Of 469,355 public school students in grades seven through twelve in 1981-82, 28.3 percent were Hispanic, 40.5 percent were Black, 27 percent were White, and 4.1 percent were Asian.[62] This report will show, that secondary school students from all racial and ethnic groups in New York City share the burdens traditionally assumed to be borne only by the Black and Hispanic minority groups. Most seriously, high school graduation, the fundamental requirement for participation in the benefits and opportunities of our society, is probably being denied to almost three- quarters of New York City's Public School Youths.

The principal finding of this research is that there is a dropout rate of sixty-eight percent from grades nine through graduation in the New York City public high schools. The dropout rate for Hispanics is about eighty percent. The dropout rate for Blacks is about seventy-two percent. The dropout rate for Whites is about fifty percent. These rates mirror the educational performance of the United States during the first decades of the Twentieth Century. The overall dropout rate for New York City is four times as great as the overall rate for Upstate New York, which was found to be seventeen percent. Furthermore, the overall dropout rate in New York City is rising by about one percent every year.

The principal reasons for the failure of the majority of New York City's public school students to reach graduation were found to be: (1) the inability of students to pass the Regents Competency Examinations, which implies curricular deficiencies in Mathematics, the Sciences, and Social Studies; (2) the extreme expansion of Special Ungraded classes, and the failure to develop an overall policy to retain students; (3) inadequate coverage by bilingual education programs; (4) underrepresentation of minority group members in faculties; and (5) insufficient occupational preparation coupled with low expectations for career advantages. Greatest attention is paid in this report to examination passage, curricular deficiencies, and occupational expectations. An additional report on bilingual education and minority staffing is in the process of preparation. Preliminary conclusions from that research are cited in this report.


Before presenting the analysis to substantiate the conclusions, an examination of educational attainment of New York City's adult population is in order. During the decade between 1970 and 1980, the U.S. Census shows a significant increase in adult attainment. Overall, 47 percent of New York City adults were high school graduates in 1970, compared with 62 percent in 1980. Black adult high school graduates increased from 47 percent to 58 percent; while the rise for Hispanics was from 20 to 40 percent.[38, 45]

The contribution of the public high schools of New York City to this improvement is an open question at this point. There are two reasons for questioning the contribution of the public high schools. Firstly, there was a shift in the economy of New York City, away from blue collar and manufacturing, and towards white collar and service employment. This resulted in a growth of the professional, technical, and managerial workforce, from 23.5 percent in 1970 to 28.2 percent in 1980, a growth in sales workers from 7.3 percent to 9 percent, and a decline in operatives, laborers, and household workers from 19.5 percent in 1970 to 15 percent in 1980.[39, 45] The changes are even greater than indicated by these shifts in resident employment, since the overall New York City labor market became more dependent on importation of professional workers from the suburbs, decreasing its employment of residents.[49]

Secondly, adults as well as youths have had the option of taking High School Equivalency Examinations. In the neighborhood of 190,000 persons passed equivalency exams in New York City between 1975 and 1982.[The 190,000 figure was reached by assuming that the 1982 fraction of New York City passes to administrations is applicable to test results from 1985 to 1981] Thus the rise in adult high school graduation is at least partially accounted for by immigration of the educated and by adult education.

Support for this conclusion comes from the 1980 census results for persons 16 to 19 years old in New York City. According to the census, fifty-seven percent of 16 to 19 year olds who were not enrolled in school had not graduated from high school. There does not seem to have been much improvement in the youth graduation rate between 1970 and 1980. Among 16 to 21 year old male school leavers in 1970, fifty percent were not high school graduates.[38, 45] Since more 20 and 21 year olds may be expected to be graduates, the change does not appear significant. Further research in this area is required, however, concentrating on differences among minority groups and neighborhoods.


Although the figures cited above are neither timely nor specific enough to provide more than indications of the educational attainment of New York City youths, they do establish the dimensions of the problems which must be faced. An additional facet of the situation is the beneficial effect of leaving school with a diploma. Young people who had graduated from high school were twice as likely to be employed as were dropouts. In 1980, fifty-four percent of the graduates under twenty were employed, as compared with twenty-seven percent of the dropouts. This situation also appears to have worsened since 1970, when 69 percent of the 16 to 21 year old graduates were employed, as compared with 47 percent of the dropouts.[38, 45]

These figures demonstrate that there was no significant improvement in the high school graduation rates of New York City's young people between 1970 and 1980, while the employment situation for non-high school graduates was worsening considerably. Because the Census Bureau has not yet released comparable data for youths by racial and ethnic group, we are currently unable to determine changes in employment prospects for minority group dropouts or graduates. We may safely assert that employment prospects are worse for all Hispanic and Black youths. In 1981 White teenage unemployment was 22.7 percent, while for Blacks it was 52.4 percent.[Geographic Area Profile rates from Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hispanic teenage unemployment is no longer estimated]

To the extent that the dropout rates remain high in the New York City public high schools, the school system may be contributing to the deteriorating employment situation for young people. The reason for this is that a large pool of well educated young workers is an attractive resource for firms whose location decisions require a medium to long term commitment to a skilled labor force. Thus, areas of the country which have high proportions of high school gradates among young people may be rather more attractive than New York City. An environment in which little or no achievement may be the norm is not likely to be able to compete. Thus, the volume of high school graduation is of interest to more than simply the students themselves. It impacts directly on the health and well being of the local economy.


It appears that the vast majority of dropouts come from the public schools rather than from the private schools. The private high schools enroll less than twenty percent of New York City's youths. Forty percent of White youths, but only twelve percent of Hispanic and eight percent of Black youths are students in private high schools. It is not apparent that students in private high schools are in significant danger of dropping out. There is a decrease in the year-to-year population of successive grades, but as Table I demonstrates it is not overwhelming.[62, 63]

Year Grade Total Hispanic Black White
1979-80 10 19,468 2,364 1,826 14,907
1980-81 11 18,171 2,101 1,674 14,028
1981-82 12 16,878 1,890 1,660 12,994
Percent Dropout 13.3% 20.1% 9.1% 12.8%

As we shall see, the total dropout rates are not significantly different from those exhibited by students from schools in Upstate New York. The Hispanic and Black rates are lower. Of course, all tenth graders in private schools who do not appear in grade 12 two years later should not necessarily be considered dropouts. Since private schools are often costly, some students may leave to enroll in public schools.


There is also the question of geographic mobility to be considered. Students' families may move away from the city. Certainly national data do continue to show a net out migration of persons from central cities to outlying areas, and a recent decline in New York City's population. However, we cannot be certain that this phenomenon is true for all age, racial, or ethnic groups in New York City. By using individual census reports from the 1980 Census anonymous Public Use Sample in further research, we will be able to ascertain the level and direction of New York City youth migration. The national central city figures which are available show a small net in-migration of about 2.2 percent for both males and females in the 15 to 17 year old population.[ll] This movement into the central cities, from both the United States and abroad, is evidence, though not conclusive, that decline in the high school cohort population from year to year is not significantly accounted for by student emigration from the city.

Also, while there was little change in the proportion of the population of high school age between 1970 and 1980, there was a decline in the population under 5 years old from 7.8 to 6.6 percent of the total.[38, 45] This change would seem to indicate that emigration is more concentrated in families with younger children than in families with high school age children. There may be some in-migration of minority group youths and out-migration of White high schoolers; and some adolescent in-migration may have been missed by the Census. On balance however, and pending more definitive analysis of new statistics, we have assumed in this report that no net change in high school student population is attributable to migration. The only exception to this rule is for the Asian population, which evidences a dramatic rise in high school enrollment.


Given this assumption it is possible to evaluate the educational opportunity granted to students in the New York City public high schools in a fairly straightforward manner. No student is endowed with exactly the same capability by the education system as any other. We have already seen above that continuing in the education system through graduation does give substantial benefits, at least In terms of employment. The high school diploma is also a prerequisite for post secondary education which creates opportunities in a wide variety of directions. In New York State, in order to graduate a student must demonstrate performance at or above a uniform level of competency. Therefore, high school graduation is the benchmark by which educational opportunity must first be evaluated. Additional research, outlined below in recommendation number eight, should be performed in order to assess pre-graduation opportunities. A report on post-secondary opportunities is also in the works.

Three types of diplomas are granted to New York State high school students. These are High School Diplomas, Regents Endorsed Diplomas, and Regents Endorsed with Honor Diplomas. In June of 1982, 33,766 diplomas of all types were granted by New York City public high ,schools. Of these 21,453, or 63.5 percent were regular diplomas, 9101, or 27 percent were Regents Endorsed, and 3,212, or 9.5 percent were Regents Honors.[54] The higher level (Regents) diplomas were not distributed evenly among high schools. The four "schools with competitive admissions, Stuyvestant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech., and Music and Arts, with 7.4 percent of overall graduates, garnered 12 percent of the Regents diplomas, and 29 percent of Regents Honors diplomas. Just one school, Stuyvestant High School, with 1.8 percent of diplomas overall, gave 18.6 percent of the City's Regents Honors diplomas, graduating over eighty percent of its students in this highest category.

This pattern of concentration was reasonably consistent over a period of time for the Regents Honors diplomas. For the Regents Endorsed diplomas, the four schools were generally stronger than the twelve percent figure implies. During June of 1981, for example, they issued 18.3 percent of New York City's Regents Endorsed Diplomas.[6]

We have obtained statistics on graduation by diploma types for 1982 for all of New York State. The results for public high schools in New York City and in Upstate New York are presented in Table II. The reason for this type of comparison, which will be followed throughout this report, is that there is a tremendous difference between Upstate New York and New York City norms.[6, 54]

Geographic Area High School Diplomas Regents Endorsed Regents Honors Total
Upstate New York 59,096 81,186 10,814 151,096
percent 39.1 % 53.7 % 7.2 % 100 %
New York City 27,467 9,924 3,332 40,723
percent 67.4 % 24.4 % 8.2 % 100 %

Table II shows that 59.9 percent of Upstate New York diplomas were Regents Endorsed or Regents Honors, while only 32.6 percent of New York City diplomas were of these types. Clearly, for those students who do graduate In New York City, the quality of their degrees is not comparable with those granted by public schools in the remainder of the State


For most students in the public high schools, academic excellence is not really the most important criterion. Their concern must be with the probability that they will not be able to meet the minimum requirements for a diploma. The principal finding of this report is that students at every level of secondary education are in danger of not being able to make the next step towards graduation.

While there are many pathways toward graduation, the most important is the normal year to year progression from grade to grade through the senior year. If a student does not participate in this progress, then he or she experiences a radically diminished opportunity for graduation. See Table IX below for a summary of the grade-to-grade dropout rates.

The ability of a school system to maintain students in the year-to-year progression is known as school retention. Records of retention rates have been kept for the United States since the 1920's. For students entering the fifth grade during the 1920's, the chance of normal graduation was one out of three. Steady progress has been made on a national level, until students entering fifth grade in the late 1960's had a three out of four probability of graduating on time during the late 19701s.[43, table 18]

Despite the national practice of measuring dropouts by means of retention rates, the New York City Board of Education does not treat dropouts in this manner. Instead, because State law requires each high school to report simply a whole number of dropouts, a single number is generated combining dropouts from all grades. This single number is then applied against all students to generate a single dropout rate. The dropout rates generated in this manner vary widely from school to school. Some schools, such as Stuyvestant and Bronx Science, report dropout rates as low as one percent. Other schools, such as Park East, Lower East Side, Pacific, and Auxiliary, have reported more than forty percent of their students as dropouts at least once during the last three years (1979-82). Generally, however, most official dropout rates vary between ten and twenty percent of the student body per year.

For the public high schools as whole, the dropout rate for 1978 to the present has varied between 11.9 and 14.4 percent. Expressed as a single number, such rates do not provide an answer to the most important question usually asked about dropouts: what is the likelihood that a ninth grader will graduate? In order to answer that question, the Board's analysts have prepared two reports, one issued in 1979, the other in March 1983. Both reports make use of the same methodology, and reach the same conclusions. Both reports assume that about 14 percent each of grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 dropped out. Thus, remaining in each grade is 86 percent of its beginning student population. Assuming that this rate is constant from year to year, 86 percent of the ninth graders will enter tenth grade, 86 percent of that 86 percent will enter eleventh grade, and so on. The f final retention rate will be (.86) (.86) (.86) (.86), or 54.7 percent. If this amount remains, then the dropout rate from grade nine to graduation is 45 percent.[3, 12]

The forty five percent dropout rate has been used repeatedly during the past few years as the basis for public discussions and policy development. This rate does not bear careful scrutiny however. Firstly, the dropout statistics are dependent on the reports from over 100 different high schools. As each school is under pressure to reduce its dropout rate, the possibility exists, given the complexity of the reporting system, and the lack of follow-up, that students who have actually dropped out may be reported not to have done so. The seriousness of this problem is indicated by the fact that the State Education Department and the Board of Education differ widely on the numbers. Generally, the dropout numbers reported to the State by the individual high schools were about nine percent lower than the figures released by the Board.[13, 65]

Secondly, though no data exists which tracks the age distribution of the student body over time; given the economic situation, the possibility exists that students though not promoted, may remain in school longer than is normal. These students may still be carried on the registers even though ample research indicates that delay in grade is a primary factor leading to dropout.[24] If this is the case, then the "official" dropping out may be being delayed at an increasing rate.


The third factor is also the second reason for the high dropout rate. It is presented out of order here rather than below because it is relevant to both sections. The Board of Education has developed a considerable panoply of programs designed to improve students' chances of graduation. Some of these programs have existed since the early years of this century, such as the Evening High Schools. In recent years these programs, known as "Holding Power" programs, have multiplied dramatically under such acronymic nomenclature as "Project Able", "Operat ion Return", "Project Aware", various "Prep" programs such as "Curtis Prep" and Project Guide, Second Chance", and "Project Win".[7] Taken together these programs represent a tremendous effort, largely on the part of individual high schools, to identify potential dropouts, or past dropouts, and to place these students into special educational situations where basic skills and attitudes can be imparted.

Undoubtedly, in many instances these programs have resulted in excellent results for students who otherwise would have little or no opportunity to graduate. These students, however, are grouped along with other "Special Education" students, including the handicapped and otherwise impaired into the category of "Special Ungraded". The Special Ungraded classes have no grade level, which reflects the philosophy that special non-traditional curricula are required. There has been a tremendous expansion of the special ungraded category in recent years. In 1976-77, there were 19,452 of these students. By 1981-82, the number had risen to 35,736, a growth of 183 percent, or about 21 percent per year.[62] There would be nothing wrong with this growth if it could be shown that placing students into the special category increased their chance of graduating. Only about 1500 diplomas were granted to the special ungraded in 1982, however.[6] Therefore, even though they are not expected to graduate, special ungraded. students are still carried on the registers. They swell the enrollment, bringing down the overall dropout rates, but are not really on the same path as regular graded students.

These three sets of factors cast the present method of calculating New York City public high school dropout rates into serious question. Futhermore, assuming that equal numbers of students drop out from each grade obscures the entire dynamic process which is involved in school retention. No group of students is identical. Successive waves of students should not be treated as if they are the same. The only realistic method of trying to account for secondary school retention is the method used in compiling the national retention rates: treating each successive class separately.


Under this approach, students in a particular grade one year are expected to appear in the next highest grade during the following year. If they do not appear, then they have not been retained. Using this approach, retention profiles have been calculated for students graduating in 1981 and 1982. The results of the calculations show that the dropout rates from New York City high schools have been underestimated. Additionally, it has been possible to calculate retention rates for each of four racial and ethnic groups in New York State as a whole, Upstate New York, New York City, and for each of the five New York City counties.

The various steps necessary in order to calculate accurate dropout rates are presented in the following sections. For those who are interested in seeing the overall dropout rates first, it is possible to skip to page 2f, and then to return in order to pick up the details.


Because of the evidence on migration into and out of New York City cited above, it has been assumed that migration is not a disturbing factor. Two significant problems were encountered which did mandate some divergence from the ideal cohort analysis procedure. Firstly, as in the case of the official drop outs, there was difficulty in obtaining an accurate number of public high school graduates for New York City for the years 1981 and 1982. In those two years 46,830 and 45,690 persons were reported as having graduated to the New York State Education Department by the Board of Education.[66]

However the Board of Education's internal figures show that 40,723 persons graduated in 1982, an over reporting of 4,967. For 1981, internal records show only 40,334 graduates, or an over reporting of 6,496.[6, 9] The 1981 internal figures do not include August 1981 graduates, who have not been tallied at the Board as yet, so the actual over reporting is somewhat smaller. The Board has given assurances that the internal reports are accurate, as far as they go. Therefore, the 1982 number of 40,723 has been used; and the August graduation proportion for 1981 has been assumed to be the same as that for 1982, yielding a 1981 graduation total of 43,606.

The second problem encountered was with the fact that the tenth grade in New York City public high schools has recently been larger than the proceeding ninth grade, including ninth graders still enrolled in junior high schools. No clear explanation for this phenomenon has been provided by the Board, The State Education Department, or any other source at this time (see below, page 25). Therefore, it was only possible to calculate retention rates by the classical method from grade ten onwards.

It has been possible to acquire ninth grade dropout rates from three separate sources.[34, 38, 47] Data from the national retention rate schedule, which falls between the other two, which are inner city estimates, have been used to complete the analysis. Therefore, the first part of the discussion below is concerned with dropouts from grade ten and onwards. Auxiliary High School students, who are all tenth graders studying for the Graduate Equivalency Examination, and Special Ungraded students, whose grade level is indeterminate, are both excluded from this analysis. Ninth grade figures are presented later, along with estimates for lower grades.

As mentioned above, retention rates have been calculated for two graduation cohorts. A "cohort" is defined as a group of persons who share some common characteristic at a given point in time (position in a particular grade in this case), and who then can be expected to experience the forces of history together, as a group (in this case, to progress through the grades together).

The first cohort begins with the tenth grade of 1978-79 and ends with all graduates for 1981. The second cohort begins with the tenth grade of 1980-81 and ends with all graduates for 1982. In Table III, the retention data is presented as the dropout rate rather than the graduation rate for all racial and ethnic groups. This is done because the concentration of this report Is on the dropout rate rather than on graduation. In order to calculate the graduation rates from Table III, it is necessary simply to subtract the dropout rate from one.[6, 62]

Geographic Area Dropout Rates
1981 cohort 1982 cohort
New York State 28.9% 29.1%
Upstate New York 15.9% 15.3%
New York City 54.0% 55.7%
Bronx County 62.6% 63.7%
Kings County 56.2% 61.9%
New York County 61.2% 60.0%
Queens County 46.2% 44.6%
Richmond County 35.2% 40.6%

For Upstate New York, the dropout rates from tenth grade through graduation were 15.9 and 15.3 percent for the two successive cohorts. For New York City, the overall dropout rates from tenth grade were 54.0 percent and 55.7 percent for the 1981 and 1982 cohorts. For New York County, the dropout rates were 61.2 percent and 60.0 percent.

These figures demonstrate the wide variation in educational opportunity which was available to New York State youths in recent years. It appears that New York City public high schools were a bit better than half as effective as public high schools in Upstate New York in retaining tenth graders through graduation, as the Upstate graduation rate averaged 84.4 percent, while the New York City average was 45.2 percent. Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan high schools were less than half as effective as Upstate high schools, with graduation rates under forty percent on average. All New York City Counties were significantly less capable of graduating tenth graders than the State as a whole.


The above overall graduation record clearly indicates the extent of the problem. The next question is whether all racial and ethnic groups share in this problem. Table IV answers this question in the affirmative. Although Hispanic and Black students are most severely impacted, White students are quite badly off as well.

In preparing Table IV it was necessary to use simple linear regression in order to estimate the number of ethnic and racial group diplomas. This is because graduates, as opposed to students, have not been included in the ethnic census. The technique was used in order to relate the changes in enrollment of minority groups, considered one at a time, with the changes in total enrollment from year to successive year. Since it was possible to obtain the total number of graduates in each County, in New York City, and in New York State as a whole, it was then possible, using the trend relationships, to accurately estimate the numbers of graduates from each racial and ethnic group in each geographic area. For all racial and ethnic groups in all counties, except for Asians the accuracy of the estimate is better than 99 percent. For the sake of legibility, the data are presented as average dropout rates between the two separate cohorts.

Geographic Area Dropout Rates
Hispanic Black White Asian Total
New York State 61.9 53.9 18.1 20.2 29.0
Upstate New York 27.0 32.7 14.1 10.2* 15.6
New York City 66.7 61.1 41.0 26.0 54.9
Bronx County 70.2 67.2 39.1 31.8 63.2
Kings County 68.8 64.9 47.5 22.1 59.1
New York City 73.2 58.6 40.3 40.4 60.6
Queens County 51.8 55.7 38.7 32.3 45.4
Richmond County 55.0 50.3 35.8 14.8 37.9
* 1981 Only

Table IV clearly shows the tremendous difficulty students from all racial and ethnic groups in New York City have in graduating. Hispanics are clearly the worst impacted minority group, followed closely by Blacks. Since the average dropout rate for all Upstate New Yorkers (see Table III) was 15.6 percent, even White students, with a dropout rate 2.27 times Upstate White rate, are seriously effected.

The differential in dropout rates results in changes in the overall ethnic and racial composition of the public high schools in different grades. The average composition of each grade for the 1981 and 1982 cohorts, averaged, is presented in Table V.

Racial or Ethnic Group Grade
10 11 12 Graduates
Hispanic 25.9% 23.8% 21.17% 19.2%
Black 40.0% 38.2% 36.1% 34.5%
White 30.5% 33.6% 37.2% 39.9%
Asian 3.5% 4.2% 5.5 5.7%

Table V shows that Black students are the plurality in tenth grade; but that by the time of graduation, White students are the plurality. If we compare the Hispanic and White percentages, the meaning of this change becomes clear. In grade ten, there were 4.6 percentage points more White students than Hispanic students. By the time of graduation, the average difference rose to 20.7 percentage points. One way of looking at this change is to note that between tenth grade and graduation, the difference between Hispanics and Whites grew by four hundred fifty percent. Although high school graduation is not absolutely' definitive, given the distribution of types of diplomas as explained above; this difference means at least, that white youngsters in New York City have a tremendous advantage over Hispanic youths in climbing the opportunity ladder, even though they are at a great disadvantage in relation to Upstate White youths.

In addition to the differences in racial and ethnic group progress, Table V needs to be interpreted in terms of the structure of educational opportunities. Although White youths are certainly not succeeding in New York City public high schools, the type of education given in higher grades may be more biased towards the cultural expectations and needs of White students than is instruction in the lower grades.


The tenth grade through graduation dropout rates presented above are quite serious enough. Now however, we must go on to add an estimate of the dropout rates for the ninth graders in order to complete the analysis. Two separate methods of calculating the ninth grade dropout rates were used. In the first method, since no reliable information on ninth grade dropouts is available for New York City, an estimate of grade nine dropouts has been prepared using national retention rate data.[47] The second estimate was based on a sample cohort analysis of all the New York City high schools in the 1982 graduation cohort which had more ninth graders than tenth graders.[6, 62]

The first method used was estimation from the national retention rate history. The usefulness of this approach is that it places the different dropout rates of the different minority groups in the City and the State into historical perspective. The central fact is that if a given group has a greater dropout rate than another group, then it is representative or, though of course not identical to, the experience of an earlier, and less well educated cohort in American History. The historical cohorts have been aligned with the racial and ethnic group, and regional dropout rates. However dropout rates from fifth grade through graduation in the national data have been aligned with the dropout rates for the tenth grade through graduation from the above cohort analysis. This admittedly inaccurate comparison was used because at no time since the retention history used began in the 1920's were the tenth grade through graduation rates for the nation as a whole anywhere nearly as high as the presently prevalent rates for Hispanics, Blacks, and Whites in New York City. Nevertheless, the selection preserves the most important feature of this type of analysis, that is, the sense of historic comparison. Using this method, Hispanic New York City students of the present day were matched with the national graduation cohort of 1932, Blacks with the cohort of 1936, Whites with the cohort of 1958, and all New York City students with the cohort of 1946, which as we know, was characterized by students leaving to fight in the Second World War.

The mis-selection of cohort years (which should of course be some decades earlier than those actually used) has been corrected by using a multiplication factor on the ninth grade rates which bring them into the same proportional size as though the tenth grade through graduation dropout rate was indeed as high in the cohort year as it is for the New York City populations.

For example, the New York City White dropout rate from grade ten through graduation was 41.1 percent. For the 1958 national graduation cohort, the dropout rate from grade five through graduation was 41.8 percent. Therefore the 1958 cohort ninth grade dropout rate was used to estimate the current White dropout rate. The dropout rate from grade ten through graduation for the 1958 cohort was 28.1 percent. Therefore the ninth grade dropout rate for the 1958 cohort was multiplied by 1.46, or 41.0 percent over 28.1 percent. Since the 1958-22- cohort ninth grade dropout rate was 8.7 percent, the estimated current ninth grade White dropout rate Is 12.7 percent. The results for all racial and ethnic groups In Upstate New York and New York City are presented in Table VI.

Geographic Area and Racial and Ethnic Group National Graduate Cohort Year Ninth Grade Dropout in Cohort Year multiplication Factor (appx.) Ninth Grade Dropout Rate
TOTAL 1976 2.5 % 0.696 1.7 %
HISPANIC 1976 2.5 % 1.239 3.1 %
BLACK 1964 6.3 % 1.46 9.2 %
WHITE 1976 2.5 % 0.647 1.6 %
TOTAL 1946 17.7 % 1.625 27.0 %
HISPANIC 1932 23.2 % 1.868 43.3 %
BLACK 1936 15.2 % 1.551 23.6 %
WHITE 1958 8.7 % 1.459 12.7 %

Table VI shows a very high proportion of ninth graders from all racial and ethnic groups dropping out in New York City. It is natural to ask, even if the tenth grade through graduation dropout rate for Hispanics is nearly twice as bad today as was the ninth grade dropout rate for the nation in 1929-1932; whether the ninth grade dropout-23-rate is really almost twice as high for Hispanics today as it was for all students over fifty years ago. It would also be interesting to know for sure whether the ninth grade dropout rate for Blacks today is in fact fifty percent higher than it was in the depths of the Great Depression. We cannot be absolutely sure of the answer; but the second estimate appears to confirm the hypothesis.

In order to check on the estimates prepared using the national cohort data, a cohort analysis has been performed using selected New York City high schools. The sample for this second estimate consists of all public high schools which had larger freshman classes in 1978-79 than Sophomore classes in 1979-80. Twenty-one high schools met this test. Since all twenty-one schools also had fewer Juniors in 1980-81, and even fewer Seniors in 1981-82, they all fit into the traditional demographic pattern. The results of this analysis are presented in Table VII.

Racial or Ethnic Group Freshman Class Students in sample Percent of all NYC Freshmen in sample Sophomore Class students in sample Percent of all NYC Sophomores in sample Estimated Ninth Grade Dropout Rate
Total 22,361 30.0 15,414 16.8  
Hispanic 9,169 42.6 5,975 25.0 34.8%
Black 10,596 30.5 7,064 19.0 32.4%
White 2,477 14.4 2,057 7.6 17.0%

By comparing the estimates produced by the sample cohort analysis with the results from national data, it can be seen that the sample analysis produces a lower ninth grade dropout rate for Hispanics, but a higher rate for Blacks, Whites, and the total population. The average difference between the two sets of estimates is 6.4 percent. The estimates for New York City as a whole differ by only 4.1 percent.


It will be noted that the sample's percent of all students falls dramatically between the Freshman and Sophomore classes. This is not necessarily because more persons dropped out from the sample schools than from the ninth grade as a whole. Table VIII presents the breakdown of the change between the two classes for all New York City Public school students. The numbers for the Sophomore class exclude the Auxiliary High Schools.[62]

Racial or Ethnic Group Freshmen 1978-79 Sophomores 1979-80 Precent Change over Freshman Class
Total 74,652 91,948 +23.2%
Hispanic 21,652 23,888 +10.9%
Black 34,736 37,259 + 7.3%
White 17,173 27,173 +58.2%

We have already mentioned above that no official explanation is currently available for the larger size of New York City Sophomore classes relative to Freshman classes. The most likely explanation, pending further research, is that New York City youths stay in school longer than four years, and thus are unable to progress normally towards graduation. Thus, the average age of New York City high school students is greater than normal. A non-conclusive bit of evidence for this hypothesis is provided by enrollment in high school compared with the population ages 14-17. In Upstate New York, according to the 1980 Census, high school enrollment for all ages was 95.2 percent of the population aged 14-17. New York City's all ages enrollment was equal to 97.5 percent of the City's population aged 14 to 17.30 This shows that New York City's high school population is relatively older than that of the rest of the State, especially when we consider that there are many more dropouts under the age of 17 in New York City than in Upstate New York, and that this should lower the proportion of enrollees to 14 to 17 year olds.

Naturally, it would be most convenient, in order to verify this hypothesis about the relative sizes of the ninth and tenth grades, to have actual data on the age of New York City's high school population. It will be possible in further research, to determine the age structure of both the public and the private high school population by using the recently released public use census data for 1980.

Also, the Board of Education's Office of Student Information Services prepared a report on-average age by grade for 1982-83 in May of 1983 that has not yet been released, pending approval by the Board.[personal communication, Anna Elman] When the report is eventually released, it will be extremely interesting. This is because New York State Law requires every school district to submit biannually a "Census and Enrollment Report" which lists exact district population, and public and private school enrollment by year of age.[personal communication, Peter Caruso] The New York City Board of Education has apparently never submitted such a document, although all other school districts in the State do so routinely. Naturally, in this case, the difficulty of counting every person under 21 as well as possible anomalies in the age structure of the student body must be accounted for as a possible excuse.


We are now at the point where we can present dropout rates for single grades from ninth grade through graduation in New York City schools, and the estimated overall dropout rates for ninth graders entering school in the last two entrance cohorts of the 1970's. First, in Table IX, we present dropout rates for single grades. The rates for tenth grade through graduation are from the averaged cohort analysis of all graded students, excluding the Auxiliary High Schools. The Low and Righ rates for the ninth grade are taken from the two estimates discussed above. The medium rate is the average of the two extremes.

Geograp Area and Racial or Ethnic Group Grade 9 Low Grade 9 Med. Grade 9 High Grade 10 Grade 11 Grade 12
Upstate New York
Total   1.7   8.0 5.6 2.8
Hispanic 3.1 12.7 11.5 5.6
Black 9.2 14.5 16.0 6.2
White 1.6 7.3 5.0 2.5
New York City
Total 27.0 29.1 31.1 23.6 31.9 13.3
Hispanic 34.8 39.1 43.3 30.0 39.7 21.0
Black 23.6 28.0 32.4 27.2 35.5 17.1
White 12.7 14.9 17.0 15.5 24.8 7.2

Table IX shows that in New York City, students in all grades are in great danger of dropping out. Hispanics and Black students in all grades, and especially in grades nine, ten, and eleven, have the highest dropout record. In contrast with the assumptions of the Board of Education's analyses, Table IX reveals considerable variations in the dropout rate from grade to grade. On average, for all 16 different grade/ group categories, New York City dropout rates are 3.5 times as high as those for Upstate New York. Hispanics in New York City have an average of 3.9 times their Upstate dropout rates. Blacks have 2.3 times, and Whites 3.8 times their average Upstate rates in given grades.


The overall dropout rate can be calculated from Table IX quite simply. One minus the dropout rate gives the retention rate, which can then be sequentially multiplied to achieve the graduation rate, which subtracted from one gives the dropout rate. For example, for Total Upstate New York, the graduation rate is, (0.983) (0.92) (0.944) (0.972) - 0.83, so the dropout rate is 17 percent. Table X presents the dropout rate for Upstate New York and New York City.

Geographic Area Dropout Rate
Low Medium High
Upstate New York Total   17.0  
  Hispanic 29.3
Black 38.8
White 15.5
New York City Total 67.1 68.0 73.4
  Hispanic 78.3 79.7 81.1
Black 70.3 72.0 73.7
White 48.5 49.8 51.0

Assuming that the medium estimates are most accurate, Table X shows that the overall New York City dropout rate, for graded students at 68 percent, is 23 percentage points higher than the previous estimates by the Office of Student Information Services. The sixty-eight percent total dropout rate for New York City is four times as high as the rate for Upstate New York. Significantly, White New York City public school students, with a dropout rate 3.2 times that for Upstate New York Whites are the worst off in comparison with Upstate, though the best off absolutely. The fact that Blacks and Hispanics are, respectively, only 1.9 and 2.7 times as badly off as their Upstate counterparts is an illustration of the poor performance of Upstate minority education; though it is certainly no excuse for the immense dropout rate for these groups in the City of New York.

These dropout rates are the first racial and ethnic estimates for New York City. Except in the case of Whites however, many knowledgeable minority group members have generally been roughly aware of the magnitude of the problem, and that the Board of Education dropout rate estimates were lower than those actually experienced by their youths.

Before we turn to the reasons for the excessively high dropout rates and to proposed solutions for the problem, two further analytical points need to be explored. First, we attempt to determine the direction and rate of change of the dropout rates for the New York City high schools. Second, we discuss the possibility that dropouts can earn high school equivalency diplomas, and their likelihood of success.


In order to determine the direction and rate of change of the dropout rate the tenth grade through graduation analysis has been extended to four graduation cohorts, those of 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982. Because August graduates were available only for 1982, the analysis was performed only on January and June Diplomas. Therefore, the rates calculated in the analysis do not correspond with the rates shown in Table IV. All of the rates except for the Projected Total Dropout Rates are not representative of the dropout situation except for January and June graduates. They are presented here only in order to demonstrate the rate of change in the dropout rates. The first set of projections for 1983 and 1984 are reasonable in terms of the rate and direction of change but are not projections of the actual dropout rate. All projections were calculated by simple regression. In projecting the total dropout rate, ninth grade dropouts were assumed constant at 29.1 percent.

Racial or Ethnic Group 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 (proj.) 1984 (proj.) Confidence (r2)
Total 55.7 56.5 57.5 59.0  
Projected Total Dropout Rate 67.4 68.6 69.2 69.9 0.9791
Hispanic 72.7 73.8 71.6 69.8   0.6807
Black 62.0 63.7 67.3 66.3 0.3713
White 39.0 40.9 43.4 43.6 46.2 47.9 0.9208
Asian 17.2 12.2 21.9 33.9   0.6885

The last column of Table XI estimates our confidence in the trend line. The r2 confidence measures the percent of the change which is "explained" by the projection equation. Thus, if the dropout situation continues to develop as it has for the past few cohorts, we are reasonably confident (98 percent) that the total dropout rate will continue to rise by about one percent per year, while the White dropout will continue to rise at a slightly higher rate (92 percent confident). We are somewhat confident (68 percent) that the Hispanic dropout rate will continue to decline, and that the Asian dropout rate will continue its dramatic increase (69 percent confident). We are least confident (37 percent) that the Black dropout rate will continue to rise dramatically, and that it will overtake the Hispanic dropout rate for the cohort which is due to graduate during 1983.

There is only one dropout rate presently calculable for this year's cohort using the best method. That is the 1980-81 to 1981-82 Sophomore to Junior component. Table XII presents this cohort's Sophomore dropout rate, and those for previous years, and provides some support for all but one of our predictions that the overall dropout rate is rising, the White rate is rising, the Hispanic rate is falling, the Asian rate is rising, and the Black rate is rising dramatically.[62]

Racial or Ethnic Group 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983
Total 24.0 24.2 24.1 23.3 26.7
Hispanic 34.5 34.2 32.2 27.7 38.5
Black 27.3 29.1 25.0 27.3 30.7
White 13.4 13.6 16.6 14.2 16.8
Asian 6.1 7.5 5.7 19.3 17.4

As Table XII shows, the general tendencies which we have identified appear to be in the process of realization, except for the decrease in the Hispanic dropout rate, which has reversed and is rising again. In a few months, when the graduation results for the cohort of 1983 are in, it seems likely that more will be dropping out from every racial and ethnic group.


Before we turn to the discussion of the reasons for the alarmingly high, rising dropout rate, we now turn briefly to the question of the alternative method of graduation, the High School Equivalency Examination. We have already seen that most "Holding Power" operations are relatively unsuccessful in graduating students directly from their ranks. The person who is in danger of dropping out, then, has one of two alternatives. He or she can either "mainstream", or can attempt to acquire a Graduate Equivalency Diploma, either while still enrolled, or subsequently to dropping out.

"Mainstreaming" is the return of the student to the normal grade-to-grade progression from Special Ungraded status. It does not appear, from several conversations which I have held with informed persons at the Board, that mainstreaming is presently occurring at a significant level.[personal communications, Stan Klein, Sylvia Belovin]

Several programs are presently aimed at least partially towards preparing students for the Graduate Equivalency Examination. The 198D81 Holding Power report lists Project Outreach, and Samuel Gompers, Morris, Theodore Roosevelt, Midwood, South Shore, George Wingate, George Washington, John Adams, John Bowne, Flushing, Jamaica and Middle College high schools as having some form of Graduate Equivalency Diploma program.[7] The Board does not, apparently, collect statistics on the numbers of public school students who earn equivalency diplomas, so it is difficult to evaluate the success of these programs.

Two sources of information do indicate, though, that the Graduate Equivalency Diploma is not the answer for dropouts. First, we have already noted that about 190,000 Equivalency Diplomas have already been granted since 1975 in New York City. But over 350,000 persons have taken the test, so the failure rate is about 46 percent.[60] Although the age distribution of persons failing and passing the Equivalency Examination could be determined by further research, no such investigation has been undertaken as yet.[personal communication, Dennis Hughes]

The only bit of hard evidence is the experience of the Auxiliary High Schools, which concentrate on preparing students who are potential dropouts, or who have already dropped out, for the High School Equivalency Examination. Table XIII presents data for the numbers of persons served by the Auxiliary Righ School Centers, and the number of persons from that group sitting for the examination, and the number passing. Since there is little variation from year to year, only a Grand total is presented. Ethnic breakdowns for students under the age of 21, and for the numbers passing the examination are not available as yet.[personal communication, Julian O. Washington]

Total Hispanic Black White and Asian
Enrolled 39,928 10,639 19,944 9,345
Under Age 21 31,403  
Percent under 21 78.6%
Sitting 9,693 2,705 4,206 2,782
Percent Sitting 24.3 % 24.4 % 21.1 % 29.8 %
Passing 7,842  
Percent Passing 80.9 %
Passing as Pct. of Total Enrollment 19.6 %

Since the sitting and passing statistics are not broken down by age, and the percent of enrollees who even get to the stage of taking the test is low for all racial or ethnic groups, the conclusion to be drawn from the Auxiliary High School experience is clear. That is, the Graduate Equivalency Examination is a questionable alternative to the regular high school diploma and a questionable solution to the dropout problem.


In 1980, according to the census, there were 275,825 seven to nine year olds in New York City.[44] These persons are now ten to twelve years old, and preparing to enter secondary education. If the pattern continues as it has in the past, about seventy-five thousand will enter private schools, and two hundred thousand will expect to rely on public education for their high school experience.[62, 63]

These students, at a rate of about 66,667 per year, will begin to join the swollen ranks of the upper grades during the coming semester (Fall, 1983). If the high schools continue the pattern of indifferent education to which they are accustomed, then of the entering 66,667, only 21,333 will be able to graduate: 45,333 will drop out given the current dropout rate. 136,000 of 1980's seven to nine year olds may find themselves on the street without a high school diploma by 1991, because of the dereliction of the public high schools.

On the other hand, if the rising dropout trend of the past four years continues, and the youngsters are in the graduation cohorts of 1989, 1990 and 1991; about 74.2 percent, 75.0 percent, and 75.8 percent of these students will drop out, resulting in only 50,000 graduates, and 150,000 dropouts.

But if, by some remote chance, the New York City public school dropout rate could be brought even with the rate for Upstate New York, a tremendous improvement could be made. The Upstate rate is presently only 17 percent, so the total number of New York City Public high school dropouts would be 34,000. One hundred sixteen thousand young people with currently dismal futures could be saved in these three cohorts alone!


In view of the tremendous deficiency of public secondary education in New York City revealed by this investigation, it is obvious that significant improvements will be necessary. Since the most important requirement for a regime of improvement is clear understanding of the situation to be addressed, the focus of this paper has been on the fundamental nature of the deficiency.

We have shown that all racial and ethnic groups in New York City share historically high dropout rates. Those students who fail to graduate face incredible hardship in the labor market. We have also seen that the relatively few students who do graduate from New York City public high schools earn about one half of the proportion of Regents and Regents' Honors diplomas earned by their Upstate counterparts. As can be seen in Table II above, over two thirds of New York City's diplomas are not endorsed by the Regents, while under forty percent of Upstate diplomas are not endorsed. This difference is particularly poignant in view of the relatively low number of Upstate students who fail to graduate, and of just how select a group New York City graduates really are.

We need to know why New York City's results are so different from those of Upstate. Considerable additional research will be necessary in order to adequately establish the reasons for poor performance. The assessment of educational institutions is one of the more difficult scientific disciplines. To undertake such an assessment without making use of the full range of data which is available would be to miss many of the details which could be established. Yet, prior to the completion of the research program which is intended as a consequence of this report, it is important to present as many preliminary conclusions as can be established. This will permit policy formation to begin, as well as present additional results of the investigation undertaken thus far.


It is necessary, furthermore, to dispel some of the illusions about dropouts which have been maintained in the literature. Two examples of the kind of inappropriate conclusions which have been made follow. First we quote almost the entire discussion of dropouts from the Fourth edition of a recent textbook on methods in secondary education:

"... 76 percent [of dropouts] were suffering from character problems - maladaptations of the entire personality - in contrast to neurotic conflicts, which usually are of recent origin and more localized in effect."[22]

The second quotation comes from an article by one of the administrators of Wingate High School's Holding Power program:

"Characteristically, the potential dropout is a hall-roamer, a behavior problem, an underachiever, and the possessor of those attributes most damaging to a school's reputation." [23, p.85]

Both of these quotations describe an image of dropouts which is not seriously relevant to New York City conditions. One may be permitted to make such invidious remarks when dropouts are a tiny minority of all students, and even then only on the basis of a very comprehensive research program which does not seem to have been undertaken in the past few years. But to imply, or to seriously assert, that 68 percent of the young people in New York City schools are suffering from maladaptations of the entire personality, or are themselves disrupting the education of the majority is patently ridiculous. A much more serious consideration of the dropout problem is required which is relevant to the specific problem we have identified.

Studies which have been undertaken of dropouts tend to concentrate on much smaller numbers of persons, both in terms of small samples of dropouts and in terms of the school districts which they represent.[43] The studies are intended to uncover reasons for dropout behavior in terms of reaction to discrimination, or employment, or the ability of specific retention programs to hold on to all persons in danger of dropping out. Although the studies which have been done have identified many unique aspects of the dropout situation, and have shown a variety of policies to be more or less effective; their relevance to the current discussion is marginal at best. This is not because the studies are not useful, but because we are dealing with the reality of a majority of the student population, and not with a small minority.


Naturally, the inability of so large a proportion of the population to maintain regular progression toward graduation must have a complex explanation deeply embedded in the workings of society. At this stage we can only scratch at the surface of complete explanation. Beginning at the point where many students depart from regular progress toward graduation, the first reason for failure to graduate is that many students cannot pass the New York State Regents Competency Examination.

Passage of this three-part examination is required of all students who will graduate with high school diplomas. Students who wish to obtain a Regents Endorsed diploma, or Regents Endorsed with Honor diploma must pass or excel in a certain number of separate and more difficult Regent's Subject examinations, and therefore do not have to sit for the Competency exams. The purpose of the examination is to insure a minimum degree of competency for adult life. Although there has been some controversy over the ability of persons from disadvantaged backgrounds to meet the standards, pending further research, we cannot indict the examinations themselves as improper. We can simply note that the New York City schools do not provide as easy a passage through the exam as do Upstate schools.

We have obtained results for all high schools in New York City, and New York State totals for all three parts of the Regents Competency exam for the administration of January, 1982, and for the Mathematics Administration of June, 1982. Generally, students may retake the exam until they pass, and since the mathematics part seems most difficult, many people retake it in June after failing in January. In fact, many students take the exam well before the time of graduation in order to meet the standards early. Table XIV presents the results from each period for New York City and for Upstate New York.[52, 53]

Geographic Area January 1982 June 1982
Reading Writing Mathematics Mathematics
Upstate New York
Number Taking 86,829 80,425 37,811 90,875
Number Passing 73,930 77,517 36,238 59,540
Percent Passing 85.1 96.4 95.8 65.5
Percent Failing 14.9 3.6 4.2 34.5
New York City
Number Taking 48,260 51,481 62,245 48,687
Number Passing 41,259 35,473 20,624 17,916
Percent Passing 85.5 68.9 33.1 36.9
Percent Failing 14.5 31.1 66.9 63.1

The table shows that New York City students failed the competency exams at much higher rates that Upstate students in all cases except for the January Reading test. A relatively low proportion of students in both New York City and Upstate New York failed the reading test. And, except for the June Mathematics, all Upstate passes were proportionally high. New York City students did relatively poorly in Writing; but the most serious failures were in Mathematics. Therefore, as an unverified hypothesis we may suggest that mathematics education is the most deficient in meeting the goal of preparing children for the Regents Competency Exam.

In a similar vein, we have results for some of the June, 1982 Regents subjects exams. The results are presented in Table XV.[52, 53]

Geographic Area English Biology Social Studies
Upstate New York
Number Taking 111,415 94,123 112,488
Percent Failing 11.9 13.3 14.8
New York City
Number Taking 23,977 20,667 17,031
Percent Failing 27.1 36.2 47.7

Although Regents subjects exams may possibly not be taken frequently by persons who drop out; pending further research, Table XV suggests that Science and Social Science education are also contributing to the inability of students to succeed.

The results of Regents examinations are a significant clue to deficiencies in the high schools. Since there is very substantial variation in failure rates among schools, it may be expected that more precise identification of problem areas may be attained from further research.



The following discussion of bilingual education is a partial presentation of the results of ongoing research which will be published in a second report to be released in a few weeks. Although the New York City high schools appear to be doing better in preparing students in English than in other subjects, especially for Hispanic, Asian, and Black students, English too can be difficult. For example, the Reading Regents Competency results for the sample of the traditional high schools (see above) where Hispanic Sophomores were a plurality in 1982 (9 schools) averaged 70.4 percent passing. The average passing in schools where Blacks were a plurality (14 schools) was 77.4 percent. This contrasts with the Citywide passing rate of 85.5 percent and with the passing rate in the four traditional schools where Whites were the plurality, at 89.5 percent.

As has generally been the case with analysis of programs in the high schools, the numbers associated with bilingual education are perplexing and contradictory. While there appears to be a good idea of the number of students being served by the programs, contradictions in the size of the pools of students from which the programs are drawn make analysis difficult.

All Hispanic students under the Aspira Consent Decree, and other language minority students under the Lau decision, must take an examination called the Language Assessment Battery (LAB). The students with the lowest fifth of the LAB scores are entitled to participate, though not all do. It is important that entitled students come almost exclusively from the lowest fifth of those taking the LAB exam. Since the population taking the LAB all have a non-English home language, the lowest fifth of the LAB population is not the same as the lowest fifth of the normal United States population. This undoubtedly means that a large number of foreign language origin students who are well below the twentieth percentile of all American students in English ability are not entitled to Bilingual Education in the City of New York.

In the New York City public high schools, according to the New York State Education Department, there were 28,481 limited English students in New York City in 1980, and 22,691 in 1981.46. However, the Board of Education reports 18,477 limited English students in 1980, and 19,966 in 1981.[47] The Director of the New York City High Schools Bilingual/ESL Programs Office indicates, however, that the State figures are in error.48 Therefore it appears that the individual high schools over reported their limited English population to the State by 54.1 percent in 1980 and 13.6 percent In 1981. This disparity appears to indicate an inadequate management of bilingual student data on the part of the high schools. For the remainder of this analysis we shall assume that the numbers from the Bilingual/ESL Programs Office are correct.

In 1981, a total of 14,452 Hispanic and 5,145 other language students actually appear to have been participating in a program. Of these, 9,962 Hifipanic and 1,778 other, or 80 percent of the Hispanic and 34.6 percent of the other participants received full programs, including both bilingual subjects and English as a second language instruction. The remaining 20 percent of the Hispanic and 65.4 percent of the other participants received only partial bilingual instruction or only English as a second language instruction.49 It is by no means clear, then, that bilingual education was fully available to high school participants.

While a majority of non-Spanish Limited English Proficient students appear to be receiving less than a full bilingual program, the majority of Spanish speakers do have access to full programs once they become entitled. The problem with Spanish language bilingual education is that too few Hispanics are being entitled to programs. This is so because many Hispanics were missed by the testing program. The High School Bilingual/ESL Programs Office lists 63,026 Hispanic students, all told, out of a total of either 258,285 or 264,250 students in the High School Register as of October 1981.50 We shall see below that all of these figures are inaccurate. According to these figures, given 12,446 participants, 19.7 percent of Hispanics received some bilingual instruction in 1981, and 15.8 percent received full bilingual programs.

However, the Ethnic Census released by the New York State Department of Education shows 81,275 Hispanic students in grades nine through twelve, and a total of 302,919 graded high school students in the October, 1981 Register.[62] Thus there are 18,249 Hispanic, and 44,364 total students missing in the Bilingual Office's accounting. If we add these students in, then the reality is that only 15.3 percent of Hispanics are participating in bilingual programs, and only 12.3 percent are receiving full programs. Since the percentage of students entitled (more students than participate) reported by the Bilingual Office declined from 22.9 percent to 19.0 percent of Hispanics from 1981 to 1982, it appears that not only is the real coverage of bilingual programs worse than has been reported, or indeed mandated, but it is worsening.

Pending further research, the following hypothesis seems justified. Bilingual education absorbs, with minimum but probably remedial effect, about 12,000 Hispanic and 5,000 other language minority students in the High Schools in a given year. The net effect is probably to improve the reading and writing skills of those taught, both in Spanish and English. But the twentieth percentile cutoff is much too low, if any "percentile" policy based on any criterion other than the real ability of the student is legitimate, and the size of the Bilingual and English as a second Language programs is too small to have an improving effect on the overall educational situation in the High Schools.

Meanwhile, the inadequate expansion of the programs may be a major reason for the continuing growth in the Asian dropout rate mentioned above. The Black student population, which apart from the 1600 Hatians who receive bilingual instruction,[11] contains fewer speakers of foreign languages is measurably experiencing a rising dropout rate perhaps as a result of insufficient attention to its special problems.


Because of our concern with the problem of cultural disconnection, it is important to mention that the terribly low level of minority staffing in the high schools is also, possibly, a significant cause of the inability of minority group students to relate to, and therefore to remain within the educational environment. A full discussion of the issue of minority staffing will be presented in the report to be released in a few weeks. Preliminary results of that research are presented here.

Overall, there were 2682 Hispanic and 6369 Black teachers out of a total of 48,653 in the entire school system in 1981-82.[64] Thus 5.5 per cent of the teachers were Hispanic and 13.1 percent were Black. In the high schools, during the same year, 3.2 percent of all teachers were Hispanic and 8.8 percent were Black. This problem is seriously compounded by the fact that the majority of Hispanic teachers are gathered in the bilingual and multi-lingual programs, and a large number of Blacks are gathered in Special Education.

In the high schools, our preliminary estimates, drawn from the proportions of various ethnic groups served by bilingual and ESL programs,[11] indicate that about 304 Hispanic teachers, or seventy-one percent of all Hispanic teachers in the high schools, are concentrated in bilingual education. Furthermore, 453 Black teachers, or thirty-nine percent of all Black teachers in the high schools are concentrated in Special Education.[1981-82 Staff Census, personal communication, Florence Adler] As a result of these concentrations, it may be estimated that only 58 Hispanic and 657 Black teachers remain to teach in the academic subject areas. Thus only six tenths of a percent of the subject area teachers, who are more insulated from cutbacks and encounter the brighter students, are Hispanic; and only seven and one tenth percent of subject area teachers appear to be Black.

Although further research is required in order to determine which subject areas are most severely impacted by the apparently inequitable hiring policies of the public schools, we suppose that few if any minority group teachers are concentrated in the mathematics, science, and social studies areas where the most severe deficits are to be found in the performance of minority group students.

The staffing distribution seems to illustrate a serious inability of the Board of Education to handle or to adapt to changes in the City's ethnic composition. Further research may prove that the low hiring rates of Black and especially of Hispanic teachers is due to some deficit in their college preparation. Also, the suggestion has been made that the relative lowness of teacher salaries may keep minority professionals away from teaching. While this may be true, the relatively lower income of both Black and Hispanic professionals than White professionals militates against the absolute importance of this as a reason. In any case, the concentration of Hispanic teachers into bilingual, and Black teachers into special education in the high schools and in the system as a whole is problematic. The low proportion of minority teachers may contribute to the inability of all racial and ethnic groups to succeed. If the body of teachers does not represent the community, we may ask, then how can we expect students to understand the community?


In addition to the internal problems manifest in educational curricula, special programs, and staffing procedures, the preparation of students for economic activity in the outside world appears to be relatively incomplete.

Occupational education in the secondary schools is a key link in the chain of government and private responses to the changing economy. Students who fail to graduate, seem fit to occupy only the lowliest and most meaningless positions in the occupational structure. High school graduates, especially those who have had effective skill creating education, or who are involved in further education, are clearly at a considerable advantage in securing stable and well paying jobs.

Economic changes in recent years create a dismal picture of the employment future of people who are unable to compete for the better jobs in New York City. Of 167,000 jobs created in New York City between 1977 and 1981, only 39,000, or 23.4 percent, were filled by New York City residents.[46] The remainder were filled by better educated people from the suburbs. Since over 90 percent of the jobs created were in Manhattan, where the most well educated workers are in greatest demand, the job picture, even for graduates with simple high school diplomas rather than Regents diplomas is very dismal.

Those who do not graduate face intense competition in the low wage labor market. The proliferation of low wage employment has reached saturation levels in the New York economy. In 1980, the Division of Labor Standards of the New York State Department of Labor conducted a random survey of businesses. An astounding 35 percent of the firms surveyed were found to be violating the minimum wage, with records violations at a 39 percent rate.[33] My own research which the Director of the Division of Labor Standards has agreed is accurate, reveals that a total of at least 41 percent of the firms in New York City violate the minimum wage.[17] It is not difficult to establish the reasons for this situation, as small businesses struggle to survive, and the alien residents have to work at sub-minimum wage levels due to fear of persecution.

The response of high school dropouts to this situation has been generally to refuse to accept the degrading positions at low pay which are available, and to refrain from seeking illegal employment, on the most part. Their labor force participation rate is low because there are no jobs available which do not violate the minimum wage and thus the standards of American justice.

The sub-minimum wage economy is an essential fact of life for New York's minority community; and those who are least able to qualify for legitimate employment are the dropouts from the New York City public schools.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the proliferation of low wage, illegal, and semi-legal employment, and the lack of well paying jobs, the high schools have not embarked on any substantial program of ensuring employment for dropouts. Dropout retention programs which do have employment components also concentrate on preparing the students for graduation. When they drop out again, they lose the benefit of the training and employment as well as the diploma. The Youth Incentive Employment Program seems to be really successful in retaining dropouts or potential dropouts. However, relatively few youths find work through the program; and the jobs they do find are highly unlikely to be more than minimum wage, part time, and of short duration.

The Office of Occupational and Career Education concentrates on vocational education programs which will result in employment on graduation. A significant effort has been made to continually develop programs which respond in some degree to the needs of the economy. The examination of selected cohort profiles reveals that the vocational schools suffer from a dropout rate similar to that of all the schools, and from similar or lower levels of performance on the Regents' Examinations than are normal.[62] And the training programs which are prevalent in occupational education are only occasionally designed to create skills which are highly salable in the labor market.

The focus of occupational education in the secondary schools seems to be either on placing graduates in some minimal job, or in inspiring them to obtain genuine occupational training through higher education. To all intents and purposes the community college system appears to be the location of the greatest public effort at occupational education, and the most likely source of primary labor market training. But, New York City, as we have seen, performs poorly in turning out graduates, so despite the fact that proportionately more New York City than Upstate graduates go on, substantially fewer of the entering cohorts do so, Table XVI illustrates this situation.[67]

Geographic Area 4 Year 2 Year All Higher Education
Upstate New York
Percent of Graduates 33.9 27.6 65.8
Percent of Entering Ninth Grade Cohort 28.1 22.9 54.2
New York City
Percent of Graduates 47.6 23.1 75.0
Percent of Entering Ninth Grade Cohort 15.2 7.4 24.0

Table XVI shows that under one quarter of New York City's ninth graders, but over one half of Upstate New York's ninth graders were likely to have entered some form of higher education. This ratio actually suggests more potential for advancement from New York City high schools than actually exists. This is because the great majority of New York City graduates enter the City University of New York, which has a vast dropout problem of its own. Minority post-secondary education, however, is the subject matter of a separate report, still in the process of preparation.[18]

As a foretaste of that report, though, it should be pointed out that many college educators attribute the poor performance of minority groups in college to the inadequacy of high schools, rather than to their own deficiencies. Pending further, more detailed research, it seems slightly premature to comment on this opinion in other than a general fashion. The argument is of a type with others which have been heard during the course of the research for this report, which attribute the poor record of the high schools to the failure of elementary and junior high schools.

Similarly, failures in elementary schooling have been attributed to family background, the latter to social class and ethnic group, to parent's social class and ethnic group, and so on. It is not intended to slight such arguments, which have a well-developed statistical history and practically irreproachable pedigrees in many instances. However, such arguments say generate a sense of hopelessness which is not truly warranted. Many studies have shown that current educational environment is at least as significant as past history in achieving effective outcomes. It is likely that if historical circumstances are known, and proper corrective action is taken, the failures of the past may be overcome. Hopefully, the research program outlined below will permit this process to begin In the New York City high schools. For the time being, though, we hypothesize as an additional reason for the poor high school performance both backward and forward linkages from the school environment, backward linkages from the past as students replicate the experiences of their elders in life and of their predecessors in the educational environment, and forward linkages as students anticipate inferior outcomes from future commitments to the educational process.


Bringing the high schools of New York City up to the standards of the mainstream Upstate New York high schools will not be an easy task. Yet it is a task which is totally necessary and cannot be delayed. If all dropout decisions are made during school hours, then one such decision is currently being made during every minute of every school day. If the recommendations presented below have any merit, then the Board of Education should immediately begin to use every minute of time, twenty-four hours a day, before the next school year begins, in an effort to prevent those decisions from happening.

Naturally, it will be necessary for the Board of Education and the Administration to decide that student retention and program improvement is the first, and will continue to be the first priority. And it will be necessary to convince the governments of the City of New York, the State of New York, and the United States, that the appalling problems of minority education require their primary consideration as well. The magnitude of the deficiency in minority secondary education, of which only the surface has been examined in this report, dwarfs the resources of individual localities, and of individual states. If the magnitude of the problem is too great to be addressed at the national level, then we cannot realistically expect localities to address it either.

The central fact our national policy makers must keep in mind is this: no locality is an island, unto itself. They must beware of taking a position that localities are capable of solving the fundamental problems themselves. Such a position is as silly for the nation as a whole to take as it has been silly in the cases of the State of New York and the New York City Board of Education, as should be evident from the discussion presented above.

It is evident that there is a gross conflict between the expectations aroused by the educational system and the realities which minority students experience in the outside world. The functions which the majority of these persons find available to be filled have little resemblance to or connection with the highly articulated social system which is presented to them in their classrooms. The services which they are able to provide for each other are crippled by an environment of penury which makes it impossible for adequate incomes and social lives to be built. The services which they could provide to the larger economy not encumbered by poverty are not simply negated by their lack of education. The fact of the matter is that the national economy is not open to expansion in their direction. If they knew of any advantages to be gained by pursuing their education, then it would be quite likely that the vast majority of dropouts would return to school. The United States government must address the problem of the lack of opportunities for minority youth by forcing investments to be made in services to and improvements in the economy of penury in which dropouts see themselves trapped. It must also provide for an even handed allocation of educational resources which will truly solve the problems of inadequate bilingual education, scanty production of minority teachers, incomplete information systems, and inferior education for economic development which cannot realistically be totally addressed by the States and Localities.

Both New York State, and the New York City Board of Education have been suffering from what might be called pilot-programitis in their attempts to address the employment and educational needs of minority groups. The New York State Urban Development Corporation has been able to create only a few projects which successfully employ members of minority groups. And the Board of Education, by flying off in innumerable directions on the retention problem, has prevented an overall strategy from developing.

It is the thesis of the recommendations which follow, that New York State and the Board of Education will have to take aggressive action to stem the tide of dropouts and inadequate educations. Even though action may possibly be taken on a national level to redress the economic situation of the beleaguered inner cities, the State and the City will still have the responsibility for providing the educated populace to take advantage of any change. Nothing can be lost and everything can be gained from making our youths ready for the challenges which may be provided for them. The recommendations run the gamut from State policy, to reforms at the Board of Education, to changes in the high schools, to redefinition of the services provided to individual students. Naturally, the recommendations are the result of research conducted to date. Additional study will undoubtedly uncover additional possibilities for educational improvements.

1. The recent suggestion that the Regents of the University of the State of New York (the proper name of the New York State Department of Education) intend to improve the requirements for high school graduation is welcome. However, the Education Department must vastly improve its capabilities in order to assure success. The Department can no longer function as a passive recipient of educational information which is all too likely inaccurate. It must aggressively seek to expand its capacity to monitor the educational performance of individual school systems throughout the State. The dropout rate for minorities in Upstate New York is far too high to be permitted to continue at its present level. The Department of Education must institute programs which radically expand the training and recruitment of minority group teachers. Adequate resources must be provided in the areas of mathematics and the sciences and social sciences directly to both minority and White communities throughout the State. There must be a dramatic effort made to improve performance of individual school districts on the Regents Subjects and Regents Competency Examinations. Additional school aid must be provided to areas whose resources are inadequate, and whose lack of educational preparedness is inhibiting economic development.

The Department must bear down hard on the poor performance of the New York City Board of Education, in filing mandated reports, as well as in meeting curricular needs. It must provide additional research and analysis in all areas impacting on educational completion. There must be a reassessment of standards for bilingual education throughout the State. The department would be wise to determine the advisability of maintaining its current eligibility criteria by instituting a program of research into the language difficulties of its residents.

The Department of Education should impose higher levels of minority recruitment in higher education, where the State University of New York is peculiarly deficient. It should dramatically improve its monitoring of proprietary institutions of occupational education and seek to provide an alternative system of productively educating those who can no longer benefit from high school, but are not qualified for college. The unemployed and disadvantaged need retraining. They will not find it on the streets. And finally, it must lobby aggressively in the legislature and in the localities to assure that finance is available for education rather than for the consequences of its lack.

2. The Central Administration of the New York City Board of Education needs to be reformed and improved in several areas.

A. The Office of Student Information Services bears a heavy responsibility for not having provided adequate analysis of educational conditions over the years, and especially for not having made reasonable use of the capabilities of the computer system. Records are not fully checked against the submissions from the high schools. Inaccurate and methodologically unsound research is sanctioned. Data mandated by State Law is not produced.

B. The Board should recreate the abandoned Research and Analysis Bureau. The lack of a centralized research capability is probably a significant cause of the presently inadequate level of analysis of educational conditions.

C. The Office of Occupational and Career Education should be given new responsibilities. The dropouts from the high schools are presently being abandoned to the whims of the low wage labor market. occupational placement in addition to simple occupational preparation is required. It will be necessary to vastly expand and dramatically improve the labor market information capability of the Office, making full use of the inadequate Federal, State, and Local labor statistics as well as initiating contacts with businesses and new substantive research. A reassessment of the general and occupational education provided by the vocational high schools will need contributions from the Office.

D. A continuation and expansion of articulation with the City University and the State University will be necessary for the high schools. The responsibility for college placement and hence for the encouragement of continuation cannot be left to individual schools with the likely result that only a select group will be encouraged. Additionally, much needs to be done in encouraging teacher training (see below).

E. It appears that the creation of a verifiable curricular monitoring process will be necessary. New standards for minimum competency will need not only to be effectively enforced, but to be supported through resource initiatives. Furthermore, it will be necessary to dramatically improve assessment of programs for dropout retention, and to restructure those programs so as to provide central office support for individual students.

3. A new curricular initiative is necessary in all the high schools. Enhancement of the Mathematics, Sciences, and Social Studies curricula should receive the highest priority. Students, in order to have a chance, must be prepared to wield higher levels of skills than are immediately utilized in the economy. The segregation of the highest level of study into the five selective high schools will have to be rethought. Unless students have friends who are managing to make use of superior resources and who are making excellent progress directly in their peer groups in their immediate educational environment, they will continue to have lowered ideas of their own capabilities.

The concentration on basic education needs to be rethought. As it stands currently, inclusion in a lower tracked basic educational setting is a sure recipe for insufficient stimulation to maintain interest. Every student is likely to be highly motivated to perform in at least one area of advanced interest. Every student should have the chance to become an expert in at least one advanced subject. Instructional encouragement can be complemented by a student and or teacher mentor system in at least one area of interest.

The curriculum should be enhanced further in all schools by bringing in large numbers of special lecturers from graduate schools, universities, and the professional and business community. Students should have the opportunity to develop interests in the interests and occupations of the adult world.

Finally much more attention should be paid to improving the communications and information specialties in the high schools. Each student should eventually have the opportunity to do guided research using computerized information systems. While this is probably a medium rather than short term goal, the New York City school system, the largest in the nation, should be taking the lead in popularizing the new technologies.

4. A massive infusion of teachers recruited from minority groups appears to be necessary. Improved pay should be a prerequisite for this process, but should be conditional on the maintenance of continuing professional education. In order to improve the staff situation, great steps must be taken to bring the necessary resources for curricular improvement into teachers' hands. The recommendation of importation of special lecturers applies to faculty needs as well as those of students. In order to make more minority teachers available, the primary burden will be likely to fall on the currently weak reed of the City University of New York. It will be necessary for the City University to take substantial steps in order to bring its production of teachers into line with the new needs. It may be necessary for the Board of Education to establish a teachers' college of its own in order to generate the impetus for curricular enhancement within the shortest possible time by undertaking to retrain the current staff.

5. The expansion of Special Ungraded status should be brought to a halt. Part of the curricular enhancement should be the creation of a process which will mainstream a substantial number of currently ungraded students. In order to fulfill the requirements for a diploma, which indeed are soon to be increased, it is necessary for students to receive instruction which is normal for the graded cohorts. Special Ungraded status should cease immediately to be the holding pen for students who otherwise are likely to drop out. These students should be attended to within the regular course of business in the graded curriculum.

6. A new and vastly improved mission needs to be provided for the guidance function. Firstly, the current system of "grade advisors" who both teach and fulfill guidance functions should be replaced by a body of professionals in the advisement of students on curricular matters. These specialists should have full access to individual student records through an enhanced Biofile Network. They should be required to hold monthly meetings with all students in order to review progress and handle all problems before they become too serious for remediation. They should have the power to order special work or individualized instruction through the mentor system mentioned previously. An active search should be made among teachers in order to find those who are best qualified for this most important function. The specialists should hold regular conferences with teachers in order to assure that the problems of particular students are attended to through cooperative mechanisms.

The normal guidance function must be enhanced so as to assure the breaking of the cycle of no training - no jobs - no jobs - no training. Guidance should function to create jobs for all students, dropouts as well as graduates. There should be a "Youth Employment Corps" with representatives attached to each school who will have the responsibility of interfacing with the labor market. This function will require the importation of large numbers of professional personnel managers, and the active cooperation of businesses and private agencies. The guidance personnel should have responsibility for monitoring neighborhood conditions and using the demographic profiles to assist in the initiation and continuation of economic development which will have local relevance. They should also have the responsibility of instituting a tremendous enhancement of apprenticeship in the community which will result in placement of students into positions leading to development of skilled capabilities.

7. Attention needs to be placed on restructuring the bilingual offerings and on making the curriculum more relevant to the Black community. On the latter subject, special attention must be paid to the particular educational problems of Black students. Curriculum reforms should include intensive instruction in the problems of the Black community in New York City and should seek to involve large numbers of Black professionals and educators in making curricular contributions.

The Office of Bilingual Education should initiate a restructuring of the limited English student selection and course offerings. First attention should go to establishing, with the cooperation of the research program mentioned below of the actual level of need of the foreign language student body for educational remediation. The goal of this process should be the development of programs to meet all prevailing needs of students in the affected groups. The goal should be to conduct the bilingual programs at optimal levels.


The next recommendation which must be made is for additional research which will continue to develop the ability to understand the characteristics of secondary education in New York.

8. Given the relative inadequacy of the research and analysis conducted by the Board of Education to date, it seems worthwhile to suggest that a full research program be implemented immediately in order to fully answer the questions which have begun to be addressed in this report. It does not seem likely that the Board on its own will be able to carry out such a research program as expeditiously as is necessary. Therefore the program should be privately funded, independently directed, and accorded the full cooperation of the Board. The following types of investigation need to be undertaken.

First, full use should be made of the demographic data available from the U.S. Census and from other sources such as the New York City Human Resources Administration and Economic Development Administration, and especially the Board of Education's student information Biofile. A profile of the demographic characteristics of the students in every high school and elementary school in the City should be prepared from this data. This will provide sets of basic information which then can be related to the performance of students.

Among the important subjects for detailed demographic analysis are the ethnic and racial characteristics of neighborhoods, prevailing linguistic characteristics and national backgrounds, family circumstances of both the general population and the population of dropouts, the health status of students, the age and grade structure of the student population, and the income and employment characteristics of both the youths and their families and of the general population.

The demographic analysis, which will yield such interesting information about the students and their circumstances, should then be tied with analyses of the experience of other large cities. Of interest are both the retention histories of other cities, and their experiences in formulating policies for student retention and educational improvement. The analysis of other cities may then be tied to the analysis of New York City's experience. New York should seek to reestablish its long lost leadership in public education at least in part by benefiting from the experiences of others with similar problems.

The core of the research program shall be a comprehensive examination of the educational situation of the New York City public high schools themselves, and of the elementary and intermediate schools which have been contributing students to the system. Instructional programs in the lower grades need to be assessed for themselves, as well as for their relevance to the later progress of students in secondary education. Especially crucial will be an examination of language facilitation, and of reading, writing, and mathematics in terms of their differential impacts on various minority groups in various locations. Promotional and grading policies will be examined along with cognitive and social development. Attention to the problems of elementary and intermediate education is also necessary because the dropout problem is not confined solely to the high schools. A cohort analysis similar to that conducted for the high school population reveals that on average about 11.8 percent of all seventh graders, and 14.2 percent of Hispanic, 12.7 percent of Black, 10.0 percent of White, and a few Asian seventh graders dropped out during 1976-1982.[62]

For the first stage of investigation of the circumstances of elementary and intermediate education, it is suggested that analysis be conducted at the school district level. Following this, evaluation should proceed on the level of the individual school.

In the high schools themselves, the wide variety of characteristics examined at the City and County level in this report needs careful analysis at the level of the individual high schools. The focus of the effort should be on the individual learning environments of the schools. Thus, it is proposed that dropout rates, derived from cohort analyses, investigation of the individual high schools' dropout reporting practices, and from the central Biofile be prepared where possible for at least the past decade for each high school and neighborhood.

The history of success of each high school should be monitored in each grade for which records are available. Regents Competency, Special Regents Competency, Regents Subject, and Graduate Equivalency examination results have either been acquired or are available for each grade in each school, for the latest administrations, and for some time into the past. Similarly, examinations mounted by New York City, the LAB, and PSEN In reading and mathematics, can be compiled for each grade in each school. By using these results, it will be possible to identify associations among minority group membership and standardized performance indicators to a much greater extent than has been possible to date. With over one hundred high schools in the sample, excellent results may be anticipated.

In addition to test results, some subjective attributes of high school performance will be analyzed. Among these are the effectiveness of the school environment in encouraging learning, the effectiveness of bilingual education, the relevancy of occupational education, attendance policies and histories, and most importantly, the curricular content of subject area instruction. Additionally, the impact of grading, promotional, and guidance policies, and of individual dropout retention and special education programs will be assessed as contributing factors in educational performance.

The experience of the New York City private schools will be considered in comparison with that of the public schools. This will be useful both with regard to policy formation, and in the effort to accurately define the characteristics of secondary and primary education for the entire youth population of New York, in addition to the public school population.

Also, occupational follow-up surveys and other labor market resources such as the U.S. Census, and the Current Population Survey will be used in order to develop a more elaborate understanding of the employment consequences of educational outcomes. Finally, the contribution of post-secondary and private occupational education, as well as the contribution of both public and private service agencies will be discussed.

The goal of the research will be to provide accurate profiles of the individual high schools which will delineate their unique characteristics and assess their particular approaches to education. The individual schools will be provided with descriptions of the demographic characteristics of their students, and with analysis of the factors which lead to educational success, or which prevent students from graduating.

Thus, in addition to providing a better understanding of the characteristics of primary and secondary education in New York City and in the Nation as a whole, the research will result in the creation of an analytical and descriptive assessment of each high school, school district, and the system as a whole. This will be a most useful tool in helping to tailor programs to meet students' diverse needs.

Additionally, once the research is complete, it will be possible to prepare projections of the contributions of various programs to educational success in their actual environments.


I am grateful for the support and encouragement of Aspira of New York and to Mr. Angelo Falcon, Anthony Carrion, Eliu Rivera and Luis Reyes for their assistance and advice. Anthony and Angelo, as well as Angelo Gonzalez, ASPIRA of New York's new Executive Director, were particularly forbearing, as my research kept leading in new directions.

This report could not have been written without the exceptional cooperation of Mr. Peter Caruso, Chief Statistician of the New York State Education Department's Information Center on Education. Peter and his staff worked incessantly and enthusiastically to satisfy request after request for more data in record time. Gerald H. Wohlferd of the Division of Educational Testing provided much advice, as well as a hand written report on the Regents Examinations. He was kind enough to take the time, despite a raging snowstorm, to introduce me to the previous literature on educational assessment. Dennis Hughes, the head of the High School Equivalency Testing Program was also most helpful in permitting me access to his files. ,

Several persons at the New York City Board of Education were also most accommodating. In particular, James Lee, Sylvia Bellovin, Freda Foss, Geraldine Clark, Stan Klein, Richard Haperin, Richard Organisciak, Florence Adler, Awilda Orta, John Acompore, Eli Plotkin, Ruth Ellen Weiner, Laura Rodriguez, Julian 0. Washington, Charles Troob, and Anna Elman provided much needed data and advice.

A large proportion of the funds used In the research, for good or ill, were available to me because of Mr. Robert P. Patterson, Jr., whose regard for equality led him to employ me on the New York State redistricting. All errors in arithmetic, or mistakes in logic, are entirely my own.


1.BOARD OF EDUCATION, CITY OF NEW YORK: "Practices in Experimental Core Classes"; 1954
2. _______________: Service Bulletin #1; -Dropout Prevention Programs 1970-71"; February, 1971
3. _______________: Macchiarola, Chancellor Frank J., "The Dropout Report", March 16, 1979
4. _______________: Regulations of the Chancellor; "High School Graduation Requirements"; March 1, 1982
5. _______________: Macchiarola, Chancellor Frank J., Phase I Report: The Status of Bilingual Education in New York City Public Schools; June, 1982
6. _______________: Division of High Schools: "Comparative Analysis, Organization of the High Schools" Fall Terms 1977, 78 & 79, School Year 1980-81, Fall Term 1981
7. _______________: ________________: "Summary Report on Holding Power Efforts, 1980-81"; June 29, 1981
8._______________: ________________: "High School Profiles"; 1981-82
9. _______________: ________________:"Report on Graduates, June, 1982 - Operational Memorandum"
10. _______________: ________________: Office of Educational Evaluation: "A Final Evaluation of the 1981-82 Promotional Gates Program"; December, 1982
11. _______________: ________________: Office of Bilingual/ESL Programs:
Various statistics on Consent Decree, Lau, Bilingual, and ESL offerings; 1981, 1982
12. _______________: ________________: Office of Student Information Services: Plan for an Integrated Student Data System; October 26, 1981
13. _______________: ________________:"High School Dropout Statistics, 1981-82"; March, 1983
14. _______________: ________________: Office of Occupational & Career Education: "Follow-up Survey of Occupational Education Completers: 1980"; n.d., 1982?
15. _______________: ________________:"A Survey of Occupational Education in the Borough of [five boroughs]" ; 5 Volumes; May, 1982
16. _______________: ________________: Office of Research & Evaluation; "New Programs for Dropouts in New York City"; December, 1982
17. Calitri, Ronald M.: Youth Unemployment and the Minimum Wage; unpublished, 1981
18. ______________: "Preliminary Report on Minority Higher Education in New York State"; Aspira of New York, 1982
19. ______________, et al. Latino Voter Registration in New York City; Institute for Puerto Rican Policy, New York, New York, 1982
20. Cardenas-Ramirez, Blandina; "The Federal Responsibility to Children of Limited English Proficiency"; Metas, Vol. 2, No.3; Spring, 1982; pp. 17-23
21. Edmonds, Ronald; "Effective Schools for the Urban Poor"; Educational Leadership; October, 1979
22. Grambs, Jean Dresden, and John C. Carr; Modern Methods in Secondary Education, Fourth Edition; Holt, Rinehart & Winston; New York, 1979
23. Heffez, Jack; "Employment and The High School Dropout"; National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin; November, 1980
24. Hernandez, Jose; "Social Factors in Educational Attainment Among Puerto Ricans in U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 1970"; ASPIRA of America; New York; September, 1976
25. National Center for Education Statistics: "Indicators of Youth Unemployment and Education in Industrialized Nations"; Working Paper, 1978
26. "State Education Agencies and Language Minority Students"; 1978
27. "The Condition of Education for Hispanic Americans"; 1980
28. National Institute of Education; "Synthesis of Bilingual Clearing House Conferences"; 1976
29. National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee;A Framework for Developing an Occupational Information System; Washington, D.C.; October, 1979
30. National Study of School Evaluation; Evaluative Criteria for the Evaluation of Secondary Schools; Arlington, Virginia; 1978
31. Neisser, Edith G.; "School Failures and Dropouts"; American Personnel and Guidance Association; Washington, D.C.; 1963
32. New York State Department of Labor; Joseph Armer, Director of the Division of Labor Standards, Personal Communication, March, 1983
33. New York State Assembly; Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation; "Faulty Data Used to Distribute a Quarter of a Billion Dollars on School Aid Money - Summary"; n.d., 1982?
34. Peaker, Gilbert F.; An Empirical Study of Education of Twenty-One Countries: A Technical Report; John Wiley; New York, 1975
35. Rebell, Michael A.; Brief for William Jesinkey, Director ASFEC, August 26, 1974 (in Board of Education Library "Dropouts" File)
36. Rodriguez, Jose: Letter to Robert Soto, August 16, 1982
37. Rogers, David; 110 Livingston Street, Random House; New York, 1968
38. Santiago, Isaura; "Education: After Four Decades of Discrimination and Neglect Another Call for Public and Private Sector Initiatives"; Conference Paper, First Conference of the Association of Puerto Rican Executive Directors; New York; December 10, 1982
39. Segal, David; "Retention in High Schools in Large Cities"; U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare; 1957
40. Sewell, Trevor E., Artis J. Palmo and John L. Manna; "High School Dropout" Urban Education; Vol. 16, No.1; April, 1981; pp. 65-70.
41. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE: Bureau of the Census: 1970 Census of Population: General Social and Economic Characteristics, New York.; May, 1972
42. _____________: _____________: 1970 Census of Population; Detailed Characteristics, New York; December, 1982
43. _____________: _____________: 1980 Census of Population, Summary Tape File 1; Printout by New York State Department of Commerce, State Data Center; January, 1982
44. _____________: _____________: "Geographical Mobility: March 1980 to March 1981"; Current Population Reports; January, 1983
45. _____________: _____________: 1980 Census of Population, Summary Tape File 3; Printout by New York State Department of Commerce, State Data Center; 1983
46. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR: BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS: New York Regional. Office; "Some Perspectives on New York City in Recession and Recovery" Febuary 8, 1982
47. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, EDUCATION & WELFARE: Progress of Education in the United States of America, 1976-77 and 1977-78 48. Ibid, 1979
49. Office of Education; The Urban High School Reform Initiative Final Report and Executive Summary; September, 1979
50. THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK - THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT: "High School and Beyond: A National Longitudinal Study for the 1980's, Report #1"; April, 1982
51. _________________: Bureau of Bilingual Education; Guidelines for the Development of Programs for Students of Limited English Proficiency Under Part 154 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education"; 1982
52. _________________: Division of Educational Testing: "Results of Selected January & June 1982 Regents Competency and Regents Subject Tests in New York City Public High Schools"; Personal Communication from Gerald H. Wohlfield; March 3, 1983
53. _________________: Bureau of Elementary & Secondary Testing Programs: "Percentile Equivalents and Reliability Data for the June 1982 Regents Examinations"; n.d., 1982?
54. _________________: "Regents Examinations, Regents Competency Test and High School Graduation Statistics for the 1981-82 School Year"; n.d., 1983?
55. _________________: Bureau of School Programs Evaluation: "Technical Report to Develop Educational Cost-Effectiveness Models for New York State"; March, 1970
56. _________________: _____________:"Variables Related to Student Performance and Resource Allocation Decisions at the School District Level"; June, 1972
57. _________________: _____________: "Performance Indicators in Education"; Spring, 1974
58. _________________: _____________: "Three Strategies for Studying the Effects of School Processes"; March, 1976
59. _________________: _____________: "Which School Factors Relate to Learning? Summary of Findings of Three Sets of Studies"; April, 1976
60. _________________: High School Equivalency Program, Records of High School Equivalency Examinations; 1982.
61. _________________: Information Center on Education: "Nonpublic School Enrollment and Staff, New York State"; 1978-79, 1981-82
62. _________________: _____________: "Ethnic Census of Public School Students by School District and New York State"; 1969-70, 1978-79, 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82
63.__________________: _____________: "Ethnic Census, Nonpublic Schools, by Affiliation, County, State"; 1979-80, 1980-81,1981-82
64. _________________: _____________: "Ethnic Census, Public School Staff by School and District"; 1978-79, 1980-81, 1981-82
65. _________________: _____________: "Public High School Dropout Data"; 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82
66. _________________: _____________: "Distribution of High School Graduates and College-Going Rate"; Fall 1981, Fall 1982, Spring 1983
67. _________________: _____________: "High School Graduate Distribution by School, District, County, Region and State - Public"; 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82
68. _________________: _____________: "Welfare, Attendance, Limited English Proficiency Data - New York City High Schools"; 1979, 1980, 1981
69. _________________: _____________: "Projections of Public and Nonpublic School Enrollment 1981-82 to 1990-91, Projections of Public and Nonpublic High School Graduates 1980-81 to 1989-90, New York State"; September, 1981
70. _________________: _____________: "Public School Professional Personnel Report, 1981-82"; June, 1982
71. Viteritti, Joseph P.; "Managing 110 Livingston Street"; Urban Education, Vol. 15 No.1; April, 1980; pp. 103-114