Driving Children Out

K-12 Testing

Advocates for Children of New York City has filed a federal lawsuit charging that officials at Franklin Lane High School have illegally discharged hundreds of students in order to boost the school’s average test scores. The suit claims that the school falsely said students were truant or could not keep up with the work, and thereby tossed out more than 25 percent of its enrollment. Students who are discharged are not included on lists of dropouts or of those who fail exams.


This is unfortunately not an unknown phenomenon. Birmingham, Alabama, high schools coerced hundreds of students to “voluntarily” withdraw, in order to boost test scores. Teacher Steve Orel brought the issue to light and was subsequently fired. Orel, who has since formed the World of Opportunity (WOO) school, which helps push-outs and dropouts earn General Educational Development (GED) diplomas, has determined that the problem continues. (For more information about WOO, see http://worldofopportunitywoo.org/.)


While under the federal “No Child Left Behind” law, dropout rates are to be part of high school accountability procedures, these cases suggest some schools and districts will find ways to get around the law - through “discharges,” “voluntary withdrawals” or other deceptive labels designed to disguise the consequences of high-stakes testing.