Drastic College Readiness Gap Between Zip Codes in NYC

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
October 24, 2012 Updated: October 29, 2012

NEW YORK—Students living in wealthier neighborhoods, mostly in Manhattan, are ready for college after graduating high school at a much higher percentage than other students, according to a new report (pdf).

A quarter of New York City school students graduated college-ready in 2011, meaning they don’t need remedial classes when entering college. But the percentage drops to as low as 8 percent in neighborhoods across the Bronx and Brooklyn, researchers from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University found.

Meanwhile, the highest college-ready rates come mostly from Manhattan neighborhoods (and two neighborhoods in Queens, Douglaston-Little Neck and Oakland Gardens).

Tribeca tops the list with almost four out of every five students college-ready. Little Italy, SoHo, and Lenox Hill come close behind.

College-ready rates used in the research come from the city Department of Education’s index, based on completion of coursework, graduation with a Regents diploma, and earning above a certain score on state tests. Zip code information came from Infoshare Community Information Service, which uses U.S. census data.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott have emphasized the importance of students choosing where they attend school. They have also closed more than 100 schools and created 528 new ones since 2002.

But these efforts have not helped much, according to the researchers.

“In spite of a decade of efforts by the New York City Department of Education to expand choice and ensure that the most disadvantaged students do not invariably attend the most disadvantaged schools … [the] study shows that student demographics still stubbornly dictate destiny,” according to the foreword of the report.

Thirteen percent of black and Latino students in the city graduate high school ready for college, compared to 50 percent of white and 50 percent of Asian students, the report states. But instead of previous analysis that has pegged college-ready rates based on where students attend school, the researchers have found low college-ready rates by grouping students where they live.

The city’s Department of Education (DOE) has been working to raise levels of readiness through initiatives such as a year of going around the schools and training a couple people, including teachers and guidance counselors, to better prepare students, according to DOE Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky.

Meanwhile, almost 8 out of 10 students entering community colleges need remedial classes, according to City University of New York officials. Many college students come from city schools.

Officials from both entities have been working on programs such as the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, a program where college students are required to attend school full time and receive more support from university officials. The first round had a 55 percent graduation rate for a three-year associate’s degree. Typically only 27 percent of students graduate from CUNY within six years.

The new Common Core Standards, meant to make school harder while producing more well-rounded and versed students, are also aimed at making students more college and career ready.

Recommendations from the report include distributing more evenly in-school guidance and counseling resources and trying to raise the level of all schools, since many students choose the higher end and less segregated schools but usually end up in schools similar to the ones in their home district.

“There are not enough good schools available within the matching process,” states the report. Without heavy investment to increase the ability of schools to prepare students for college, “the vast disparity in opportunity that separates the city’s neighborhoods will persist.”

For the first time this year, college-readiness scores will affect high schools’ progress report scores, which will be released next week.

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Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.