A loophole in school policy allows students to be “discharged” from the 1 million-student New York City district without being counted as dropouts, and the problem has gotten bigger since a 2002 report brought the issue to light, according to a recent report.
The report’s authors are Jennifer L. Jennings, a graduate student at Columbia University and the former writer of the “eduwonkette” blog on edweek.org, and Leonie Haimson, the founder of the parent-advocacy group Class Size Matters. They found that the discharge rate in the city grew from 17.5 percent for the class of 2000 to 21.1 percent for the class of 2007. The growth in the discharge rate, they say, appears to be highest for students in their first year of high school. As the discharge rate increases at a school, so does the graduation rate, because these students are not counted when graduation rates are calculated.
Special education students in self-contained classrooms are also discharged at a high rate, rising from 17 percent in the class of 2000 to 23 percent in the class of 2007, the authors found. The report recommends that the city release more public data on student discharges, and that the process be audited by the state or city comptroller.
A version of this article appeared in the May 13, 2009 edition of Education Week