Quinn Calls for Raising High School Drop Out Age to 18; Releases 4 Point Plan to Increase High School Graduation Rates

Christine Quinn was joined by State Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan, today, to unveil her 4 point plan to increase high school graduates rates at New York City’s public schools. Quinn’s plan includes getting state permission to allow New York City to raise its legal drop-out age from 17 to 18, developing early warning systems for middle school students on a path toward dropping out, expanding vocational schools and connecting graduates with jobs to show students the tangible benefits of completing schools. Quinn noted that by raising the minimum age at which a student can drop out of school to 18, it will send a powerful message to the city’s children that the City wants and expects them to be in school until they graduate and that they cannot make a major decision like this until they are legal adults. Quinn pointed out that 9,000 students dropped out of New York City high schools last year and that the average annual income for a high school dropout in recent years was approximately $8,000 less dollars than that of a high school graduate. Additionally, data shows that students who stay in school an extra year are more likely to graduate. The announcement was made outside the offices of The Door, an organization that support high school drop-outs and other at-risk youth. 


“Anything less than 100 percent graduation rate is unacceptable and we as a city, strive to change this and take measures to correct it,” said Quinn. “By raising the minimum age at which a student can drop out to 18, we will ensure only legal adults are making these important life decisions. When implemented in conjunction with my other proposals such as expanding alternative graduation paths and better connecting high school graduation with employment, will increase gradation rates and better equip our city’s children with the tools they need to succeed.”

Specifically, Quinn’s four-point plan seeks to:

Raise the Minimum Drop Out Age in New York City from 17 to 18

Currently, New York City students are given permission to drop out of school at 17 years old  - when they are still children. Working with Cathy Nolan, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, Quinn announced that as Mayor, she will push the state to allow municipalities across New York to raise their legal drop-out age to 18. Acknowledging this alone will not solve the dropout crisis or increase graduation rates, Quinn believes this will send a powerful message to the city’s children that the City wants and expects them to be in school until they graduate, or, at least until they reach legal adulthood.

Additionally, data shows that by keeping a student in school for another year increases the likelihood that they will graduate. According to a study by the NYC DOE, only 59.3 percent of students who were supposed to graduate in 2006 actually did. However, of the 26 percent of students who were still enrolled in the program in 2007, 70 percent ended up graduating – a 10 percent jump.

Expand Alternative Graduation Paths and Connect High School Graduation with Employment

Quinn believes that the City must connect high school graduation with a good paying job not only by increasing the number of jobs in the city but by improving the K-12 job pipeline. This will be accomplished by expanding vocational schools and 6-year High School-Associate Degree programs. Additionally, Quinn will introduce a thoroughly reinvented workforce development system that’s driven by real-world demand, has clearly defined metrics and goals, and rewards lasting results. These programs show students the tangible value of completing school.

Aggressively Address Factors that Contribute to Dropout

Under Quinn’s plan, an alert system will be put in place to notify parents, teachers, administrators and counselors when a middle school student has certain flags that correlate with dropping out such as high rates of absenteeism, suspension or poor grades. These issues alone may not indicate a student is on a path to drop out of school, but when looked at as a whole, it can be easier to identify and address problems sooner.

Additionally, by improving school safety, both students and teachers will feel more comfortable in the school and more likely to succeed. As Speaker, Quinn has made it a priority to decrease suspensions and increase schools safety by passing the School Safety Act and pushing the DOE to make changes in the discipline code that have resulted in significant reductions in suspensions citywide. As mayor, Quinn will go even further, requiring all schools to use proactive, positive behavioral intervention systems as a first line of action when responding to student behavior.  Additionally, she would hold schools accountable by measuring their success with the approach on a revised school progress report.

Give Every Student the Foundation for Success in High School

As mayor, Quinn will bring Student-Led Conferences (SLCs), a staple of the City’s Outward Bound Schools, to schools across the city. These conferences form the core of student assessment and are led by students, not by teachers. Panelists include parents, community members, working professionals, and educators. Not only do these conferences increase investment in learning from students, they increase parental engagement.  Outward Bound reports that schools with average attendance rates of 50% at regular parent-teacher conferences have 100% attendance rates for Student-Led Conferences. Additionally, Quinn has pledged to expand on the 9th Grade Parent Involvement in College Readiness initiative, developed by New Visions for Public Schools.  Using data tools and aligned events like the Freshman Academy, schools involved in the initiative help parents understand college readiness benchmarks, monitor their children’s progress and support their college and career aspirations, collaborate with teachers and schools staff, and access academic enrichment and other resources to support their children’s progress.

Earlier this week, Quinn laid out her literacy plan to have all students reading proficiently by the end of third grade and ensure that as students move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”, they continue to take steps forward so they are college or job ready by the 12th grade.