Despite a pandemic that shut down classrooms and canceled exams, the city Department of Education last week claimed that it graduated more students than ever who were ready for college.
The DOE said it graduated 78.8 percent of 78,834 students in the Class of 2020, and that 57.7 percent met CUNY’s admission standards for proficiency in English and math.
How this was accomplished raised eyebrows.
“The DOE still hasn’t come up with an adequate response for how, in a pandemic semester, both graduation and “college readiness” rates increased, said David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College and CUNY Grad Center education professor. “It just seems surprising with all the hardships.”
The state canceled last year’s Regents exams, which are normally required for graduation, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the DOE softened its grading policy in sympathy with families suffering economic hardship or illness.
Normally, students must pass at least four Regents exams to graduate, but score higher — at least 75 in English and 80 in algebra or geometry — to be deemed “college ready.” Students scoring 480 or higher in English and 500 in math on the SAT also qualify.
While many students took one or more Regents exams before the pandemic, some 8,000 students received waivers to graduate without passing the tests, the DOE said.
CUNY had to rely more on grades in fall 2020 admission decisions, spokesman Frank Sobrino told the Post.
Bloomfield said that gave students another boost.
“The secret sauce is the DOE’s relaxed grading system, the Chancellor’s urging schools to give students the benefit of the doubt, and fewer students being boxed out by the Regents,” Bloomfield said.
A veteran high-school teacher believes the college readiness rate is likely inflated.
“In all reality, it probably didn’t go up. It probably went down, because the requirements have been watered down.” he said.
DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson said the college readiness rates, including SAT and ACT scores, are based on stricter CUNY policies in effect last fall.
“The Class of 2020 spent three and a half years in high school prior to the pandemic and we’re proud that our students and educators kept on track to achieve record-high graduation rates and college readiness rates, following years of consistent progress under this administration,” she said.
CUNY has since suspended its use of the SAT and ACT to demonstrate proficiency for admission in the spring and fall of 2021, and spring of 2022.