Raising Graduation Rates With Community Partners

Saskia TraillCongratulations to Graduate NYC! for going live and launching workshops for professionals from community organizations who offer high school students college guidance they can otherwise find nowhere else. I hope it’s the beginning of even more attention to the role of community partners in high schools.

About three years ago the Gates Foundation gave money to NYC, along with other cities, to significantly increase college graduation rates. Here the Gates goals layered perfectly over work already underway by CUNY and the New York City Department of Education. An amazing number of New York’s public school graduates go to CUNY—nearly two-thirds. Many need remediation and a fraction graduate. Gates brought more than much-needed cash to the CUNY-DOE partnership. It also allowed, or perhaps forced, the agencies to bring community partners into the initiative. Chaired by Ruth Genn (then at New Visions and now the Executive Director of BottomLine) and Megan Hester of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and the Coalition for Educational Justice, the partner group reviewed all aspects of the plan except technical details behind the data system alignment.

Community organizations do more than add essential voices to efforts like this one. For many kids and their families, they are lifelines to the information and support students need to navigate the complicated and high-stakes advancement from high school to college. The average ratio of students to guidance counselors in NYC’s high schools is around 500-to-1. Community partners help many schools ensure that kids who would otherwise be ignored get attention from a knowledgeable adult. Bravo to GraduateNYC! for supporting them.