Graduation Rates Up, Academic Standards Down In This State

Graduation rates are way up, but many are questioning this now that most recent grads in this state received required class exemptions.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

Grade Inflation: What It Is And Why It’s Happening

graduation rates

New York experienced high graduation rates for its 2021 class. Unfortunately, this is not likely due to increased student success rates, progress, or academic achievement. Since the pandemic, the state has relaxed education standards to such a degree that 70.9% of the 2021 graduating class also received at least one exemption from graduation requirements.

This information displays the negative effects of data-focused teaching standards, which encourage teachers and schools to allow students to pass regardless of whether they have learned the required materials or not. While the graduation rate has gone up 9.4 points since 2012, and the state is boasting about its 86.1% graduation rate, students have not had to take the previously required Regents Exam, turn in work on time, or show up for class in order to maintain proper standing. 

The New York City Equity Coalition is questioning whether the increased graduation rate is inflated to produce seemingly good success rates without properly ensuring that students are equipped for adulthood, college, and/or career roles. Despite this claim, the state has been reporting on improved graduation rates since well before the pandemic. For example, the 86/1% figure was from the 2017 school year. This was well before the lockdowns, isolation, masking, and relaxed standards took effect. 

While the New York public education system has become more lenient toward students missing class and turning in late work — and the regent’s exam has not been given since 2019 — concern over inflated graduation rates may not be entirely accurate. What is known is that families are leaving the system due to various concerns. The relaxed standards have no data to ensure they will encourage students to learn, nor do they allow teachers to ensure that their class does not fall behind or experience learning loss. 

The fact that well over two-thirds of students could not graduate in 2021 without at least one graduation requirement exemption is also another valid concern. Increased graduation rates may look good on paper, but if students cannot perform at standard levels, gaining a high school diploma will not aid them in their future endeavors. If young adults cannot compete with their peers they will struggle to earn entrance into good colleges, find fulfilling jobs, and may not be as prepared for the responsibilities of adulthood. 

What’s more, the 2017 graduation rates may have reflected successes throughout the state, but whether or not the relaxed standards are sustainable also presents long-term issues. Students who are allowed to graduate without the proper requirements will likely come forward. Parents are already speaking out. If the current exemptions are removed and stricter policies reinstated, graduation rates are likely to plummet, further harming not only the families supporting the school but also the communities hosting them. 

graduation rates

It has yet to be proven that New York was inflating graduation rates, but the allegations are serious. Other schools have been caught tampering with official data and faced legal prosecution. Whether these schools are doing so or not, student standards have been relaxed and that will affect how children and young adults prepare for the future. The long-term results will display if these policies are truly helpful or harmful.