Thompson Questions City’s Graduation Rates, Wolfson Calls Findings ‘Phony’

Bill Thompson is out with a report questioning the city’s public school graduation and drop-out rates. Thompson is also comparing the agency running the schools to Enron.

“[T]he New York City DOE has become the Enron of American education, showing the gains and hiding the losses,” Thompson said at a press conference just now in his office at 1 Centre Street.

“At a time when Mayor Bloomberg and the School’s Chancellor boast about graduation rates, this audit serves as a reality check: the Department of Education cannot demonstrate that all graduates earned their diplomas.”

Thompson said his office looked at the transcript of 197 recent high school graduate and found 19 of them, roughly 10 percent “had neither the required number of course credits overall, nor had passed the required Regents exams necessary to graduate.”

Thompson’s report does say that school officials provided “internal documents” showing students satisfied graduation requirements, but that “none of these were reflected in student transcripts or permanent record cards.”

Thompson also questioned the process by which credits were given to students for two semesters’ worth of work even if they failed the first semester of a year-long course. Thompson said there is not enough oversight of this particular accreditation program.

Thompson’s other major criticism is that school officials artificially kept the drop-out rate low by reporting students who have not attended school for months as currently enrolled.

In response, the mayor’s campaign spokesman, Howard Wolfson, issued a statement calling the findings false and political:

“Instead of politicizing the comptroller’s office with phony attacks, Mr. Thompson should be explaining his own failed record on education. The facts are clear: When Bill Thompson ran the old dysfunctional Board of Education graduation rates were flat and dropout rates increased. Under Mike Bloomberg’s leadership, graduation rates have skyrocketed and dropout rates have fallen. Bill Thompson had a chance to help oversee our schools and he failed. Why would we ever want to go back again?”

UPDATE: Thompson issued a statement defending the audit’s methodology and responding to Wolfson’s criticism.

“It is also surprising that the first official comments about our audit came from the Mayor’s campaign – and not from education officials – and before our office had formally started a news conference to announce the findings. That shows who injected politics into government.”

Thompson Questions City’s Graduation Rates, Wolfson Calls Findings ‘Phony’