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Losing our Future

May 3, 2014 – 3 Iyyar 5774

Tanya is an African-American female. When Tanya was fifteen years old, she was placed by her high school into the high school’s pre-GED program because, according to her school, her grades were too low to allow her to remain in the regular high school program. In December 2002, the school told Tanya and her mother that Tanya could no longer attend high school because she had not earned enough credits and would not be able to catch up to grade level, and therefore had to go to a full-time GED program. Tanya was never provided with tutoring, counseling or other services before being told to attend a GED program. Tanya’s mother asked the school about Tanya’s right to stay in school until she was twenty-one years old and was told that Tanya was so far behind that her right to remain in school did not matter.

When Tanya attempted to enroll in a GED program because she believed this was her only choice, the admissions counselor at the GED program did not accept her into the program because she was too young. Tanya was then placed on a waiting list for two months and eventually enrolled in the program. Tanya lost valuable time in her education because she was never provided with a high school curriculum, and by the age of seventeen, had not been offered the opportunity to earn many high school credits.

Tanya is committed to staying in school for as long as necessary and working as hard as necessary to earn a Regents diploma. With Advocates for Children’s assistance, Tanya started attending a regular high school in September 2003.

Unfortunately, Tanya is just one among thousands of students who have been discharged recently from New York City public high schools. In fact, more than 55,000 students were discharged from New York City’s public high schools during the 2000-2001 school year. Several federal, class-action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of discharged students. The suits allege that students are being pushed out because of pressure on principals to boost the percentage of students who graduate in four years and who pass the Regents exams (New York State’s high-stakes test). The suits further allege that these students are being asked to leave without written notice or an opportunity to be heard, in violation of federal law.

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein conceded that this pushing out of students is a city-wide crisis. “The problem of what’s happening to the students is a tragedy,” he said, “It’s not just a few instances, it’s a real issue.” Many of the pushed out students are English language learners or have disabilities. Schools need the tools to engage such struggling students. The Chancellor went on to say that although the goal is for students to graduate in four years, “We’ve got to stop giving the signal that we’re giving up on students who don’t do that. We need more programs for them, at the same time as we keep up our high expectations for the system.”


This is an excerpt from a study by Gary Orfield, Daniel Losen and Johanna Wald from The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and Christopher B. Swanson from The Urban Institute. To read the full study, click here.

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