Since 2004, students in New York City have been allowed to choose where to attend high school. But freedom to leave their neighborhood schools hasn’t led to higher graduation rates for students from low-income families, a new study finds.
While the city school system’s overall four-year graduation rate reached 70 percent in January, the graduation rates for students who live in low-income neighborhoods lag behind those of their wealthier peers by as much as 34 percentage points, according to the study by Measure of America, which is a project of the Social Science Research Council.
Only 60.9 percent of the high school students who live in the beleaguered Mount Hope, Fordham South, and Morris Heights neighborhoods of the Bronx are graduating in four years, even though many chose to attend schools in other neighborhoods.
More than 95 percent of students who live in wealthy Manhattan neighborhoods like SoHo graduate from high school on time, the study found.
“After more than a decade of universal school choice, a child’s community district is still highly associated with his or her likelihood of graduating high school in four years,” the study says. Choice has “not fixed the problem it was designed in part to solve.”
A cluster of factors likely accounts for the persistent low graduation rates among students who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods, it says, including the tremendous complexity of the school choice process.
The data-mapping project by researchers Kristen Lewis and Sarah Burd-Sharps provides the first look at New York City high school graduation rates based on where students live, rather than where they attend school.
A version of this article appeared in the May 18, 2016 edition of Education Week as Study: Graduation Rate Inequities Persist