Examining the Disparities in High School Diplomas

March 20, 2020

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Title: The State of The Diploma—Learning from New York’s 2018-19 High School Graduation Rate Data

Source: The New York Equity Coalition

Author: The New York Equity Coalition

Using New York’s 2018-19 high school graduation rate data, a policy brief published by the New York Equity Coalition examines how the use of alternative “4+1” diploma pathways may lead to disparities in students’ access to advanced opportunities. The brief also suggests specific policies to improve equitable access to advanced courses that prepare students for college and career.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Black, Latinx, low-income students, and English learners were disproportionately more likely to be tracked into the career development and occupational studies (CDOS) pathway, rather than ones that led to college readiness.
  • All types of New York’s school districts were more likely to rely on the CDOS for Black, Latinx students than for White students. In the big 4 school districts, for instance, 24 percent of Black students received a diploma using a CDOS credential pathway, compared with 15.8 percent of all students.
  • The increase in New York State’s overall high school graduation rate was mainly due to the increase in Local diplomas [1]– which are seen as safety nets for students who may struggle with exit exams – rather than an increase in Regents diplomas. This trend was especially true for historically underserved students. For example, the increased use of Local diplomas accounted for 64 percent of total graduation rate gains among low-income students.
  • Stark disparities exist in the proportion of students graduating with an Advanced Regents diploma. Only 12.1 percent of Black students and 16.9 percent of Latinx students were awarded an in 2018-19, compared with 47.3 percent among White students.

Click here to read the full report.

—Yuan He

[1] According to New York State Education Department, three different categories of diplomas are offered in the New York State, including the local diploma, the Regents diploma, and the Regents diploma with advanced designation. The key difference between these diploma types is the number of assessments passed and the required passing scores. Advanced regents diploma has higher assessment requirement than the local diploma.

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