- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003

In New York City and other large cities, high school students are increasingly being expelled — not for bad behavior, but because administrators think they will fail standardized tests. These students are not considered dropouts. That would look bad for the public school system. Rather, they are called “pushouts.” The students are usually offered alternative programs, where they can earn a General Educational Development (GED) diploma. However, GED teachers have said that most pushouts never even get a GED. Such developments are the antithesis of modern public education goals that seek to leave no child behind.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, 500 students per year have been pushed out of Brooklyn’s Franklin K. Lane High School. The process involves students being “shuffled into one bureaucratic category or another that avoided increasing the school’s dropout rate,” the Times reported. A lawsuit against the city Department of Education is pending.

Sadly, this problem has existed for too long — and not just in New York City. New York’s Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, has said that 160,000 students, or at least 20 percent, were pushed out of the city’s public schools during the 2000-2001, 1999-2000 and 1998-1999 school years. Another example is Birmingham, Ala., where 522 students were pushed out in 2000 for “lack of interest” prior to the administration of the SAT9 test. Yet, Steve Oral of the World of Opportunity adult education program in Birmingham said that school officials admitted they actually pushed out students to remove low-achieving students from the test pool. Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reported last month that an elementary school principal wanted to “weed out problematic students who live outside the school’s attendance area — and who may be dragging down standardized test scores.” In April, the Houston Chronicle reported that city schools may have failed to report thousands of dropouts because employees wanted to collect a bonus for high accountability ratings.

The culpability for the problem of pushouts appears to rest with administrators, counselors and teachers who give a vote of no confidence in the academic performance of struggling students, effectively denying them an equal opportunity to graduate. To give up on students, however unruly, unmotivated or under-achieving they may be, is to deny them their rights.

That our public schools push out undesirables is contemptible. Accountability and standards must apply to administrators, teachers and counselors. Obviously, our state and local authorities are letting public school officials off the hook.

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