Ten years after New York State’s highest court ruled that every student has a constitutional right to a “meaningful high school education,” two recent reports provide extensive evidence that in many New York City high schools, students are not being offered sufficient science and math courses to adequately prepare them for college and/or careers. Only 28 of 342 schools analyzed by the Center for New York City Affairs offered Algebra 2, chemistry, and physics and 46 schools did not offer even one of the three. Creating College Ready Communities. Also, according to a study by New York’s Independent Budget Office, 10% of the high schools studied did not offer chemistry, and 32% did not offer physics. Despite the Court of Appeals’ emphasis in CFE v. State of New York on the importance of science labs, almost 16% of New York City’s high schools still lack them.
The Center for New York City Affairs report is based on four years of research in 12 high schools and two middle schools, all with large numbers of students from families in or near poverty. Their researchers also interviewed more than 250 educators, guidance counselors, college experts and policymakers and surveyed more than 300 students and teachers. The IBO investigated the availability of resources, such as Advanced Placement classes, science labs, gyms and libraries in the city’s public high schools. They compared the availability of these resources among different high schools based on student demographics and types of schools, using data from the Department of Education from 353 schools serving 273,940 students in grades 9-12.
The Center emphasized the difficulties students faced in preparing for college with a shortage of school personnel. Only about half of New York City students who entered ninth grade in 2007 enrolled in college on time and over 70% of high school students in NYC’s Class of 2012 scored so low on state exams that they had to take one or more remedial courses at the City University of New York. The Center points to the shortage of guidance counselors in many schools as one reason for students’ failure to attend college. Over 60% of NYC guidance counselors manage caseloads ranging from 100 to 300 students, with many counselors struggling to singlehandedly meet the needs of over 300 students. The IBO study indicated that many of the deficiencies they found were disproportionately concentrated in schools that are attended predominantly by minority students: Black and Hispanic students had on average 5.4 science classes in their schools, while White and Asian students had access to 6.2 science subjects.