WASHINGTON, D.C. April 25, 2007 - New York State United Teachers today said raising high school graduation rates will take a broad-based effort to strengthen the social support networks that children need to succeed.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said there is good news in the State Education Department report, including an overall increase in the graduation rate statewide and in New York City, and higher percentages of African-American students earning diplomas. "However, he added: "We are very concerned. Graduation rates in some communities are at a crisis point."
Iannuzzi said, "In today's society, a high school diploma is the bare minimum that students need to land a decent job. An increase in the overall graduation rate is something we all know is necessary, and we will do our part to make sure that happens."
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira, who is leading the union's efforts to close the achievement gap, added: "There is an undeniable link between poverty and low graduation rates. Achievement gains for children living in poverty are undermined by sweeping social issues, including inadequate health care, substandard housing, insufficient early childhood education programs and a lack of resources. Closing the achievement gap is going to take all our efforts to close gaps in our social support networks, which contribute to high drop-out rates in some communities."
Neira spoke as the 575,000-member union opened its annual Representative Assembly in Washington, D.C. NYSUT is calling on Congress to fix the No Child Left Behind Act. Neira noted the union unveiled the results of statewide surveys that show NCLB's over-emphasis on standardized testing is changing classroom instruction and narrowing the curriculum. The focus on testing at the expense of other subjects can hinder efforts to raise graduation rates, she said.
"We are no longer educating the 'whole child,'" Neira said.
NYSUT represents 575,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers; National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.