The headline on the CBS-New York website is misleading. It's says that 80% of graduates can't read. That's not true as the body of the article states:
Officials told CBS 2′s Kramer that nearly 80 percent of those who graduate from city high schools arrived at City University's community college system without having mastered the skills to do college-level work.
In sheer numbers it means that nearly 11,000 kids who got diplomas from city high schools needed remedial courses to re-learn the basics.
Given the circumstances, they may as well be declared functionally illiterate.
How did things get this bad?
To meet the needs of the students, City University has launched a special program called CUNY Start. It provides low-cost immersion classes. Sherry Mason teaches a writing class.
"They get lost sometimes in the classroom and in CUNY Start we give them a lot more one-on-one attention, small group work. It helps them achieve more in a short amount of time and so they're able to get on with their credit classes," Mason said.
Nicholas Gonzalez, a graduate of New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, participated in the CUNY Start program. He said he would never had been able to face college credit classes without it.
"I was nervous about how hard it was going to be, how much of a change it was going to be from high school," Gonzalez said. "I knew I needed to take remedial, If I started right away with credit classes it wasnt going to be so well, so it's better off starting somewhere."
In its defense, the NYC Department of Education said it has raised high school graduation rates by 40 percent over the last seven years. And that the number of students needing remedial courses to do college work has declined slightly -- by half a percentage point overall.
So the important thing is raising graduation levels? What good does that do if 80% of the grads need work on their basic reading skills?
What a sad testament to the educational system in New York City.