Poll shows that standardized tests have support among parents. (Photo/Getty Images)

Large increase in NYC Latino high school grads, but numbers still lag for English language learners

More Latino students are graduating from high school in New York City than ever before, but the number of English Language Learner graduates in the city continues to lag, with a near 5-point drop in graduation rates this year alone.

The number of Latino students graduating from high school in New York City rose by 54 percent in 2012 compared to graduation rate data from 2005, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Schools chancellor Dennis M. Walcott announced Monday. The overall graduation rate in New York City also rose  by more than 39 percent since 2005, an increase of 57,000 graduates. The city’s dropout rate since 2005 has declined as well, falling from 22 to 11.4 percent in 2012.

And Hispanic graduation rates have climbed faster than those for any other ethnic group in New York City. Graduation rates for black students increased by 50 percent since 2005, and graduation rates for Asian students increased by 24 percent. The graduation rates for white students increased by 22 percent and the gap in graduation rates between Hispanic and white students has decreased by 23 percent since 2005, according to data released by the mayor’s office.

However, positive news doesn’t extend to the graduation rate for English Language Learners (ELLs) – students for whom English is their second language – which dropped this year alone by nearly five points.

RELATED: Number of U.S. Hispanic-serving colleges and universities sees big jump

“The English Language Learners’ (ELLs) four year graduation rate saw a nearly 5-point drop due to the higher standards this year,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement, making a reference to New York City’s testing and graduation requirements. “However, ELL students’ five- and six-year graduation rates continue to increase.”

Dr. Pedro Noguera, a sociologist and the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University, says the new data exemplifies a need for English Language Learner support that is still lacking in cities across the nation.

“On the one hand, there has been real success in NYC in terms of improving graduation rates,” notes Noguera. “But ELLs represent a disproportionate number of Hispanics, and the reason why we have not seen an increase in graduation rates for them is because these students have been marginalized both within their schools and districts. There aren’t enough qualified teachers, courses, services and resources for them that fit their needs, which contributes to high dropout rates and low achievement.”

Allocating a greater share of finance and support to low-income schools within New York City’s five boroughs is key to bolstering graduation rates for ELLs, says Noguera, because “the city’s schools are very uneven in terms of support and resources.”

“There are still a large number of schools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods where the most disadvantaged ELLs are concentrated,” explains Noguera. “What we know is that when you segregate kids, you deny them access to English language speakers and with that, the resources that they need.”

Mayor Bloomberg addressed the need for greater school support, announcing that beginning this fall, Department of Education will provide additional funding for approximately 25 schools in the city that “need the most support for teachers on best practices for ELL instruction.”

It’s a step in the right direction, says Noguera, who stresses that high quality learning programs are needed for four-year graduation rates to improve among English Language Learners.

“With good schools, comes the support ELLs need to become successful.”

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