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  • Policy Report
  • Sixteen Going on Seventh Grade: Over-Age Students in New York City Middle Schools

    More than 50,000 middle school students – a quarter of the students in New York City’s public middle schools – have been left back at least once, and more than 8,500 students have been left back at least 3 times. Despite their significant academic and social-emotional needs, there are fewer than 450 seats in programs for over-age middle school students in the City’s traditional public and charter schools. This September 2014 policy report brings attention to the unique needs of over-age middle schoolers and provides the New York City Department of Education (DOE) with recommendations for improving outcomes for this population.

    Sep 9, 2014

    Male teenager hides his head in his arms as he sits on the floor of a classroom.

    The report finds that in 2011-12, the most recent school year for which data is available, while 70% of all New York City middle school students identified as Black or Hispanic, nearly 83% of middle school students who were at least one year over-age identified as Black or Hispanic. Furthermore, over-age middle school students were twice as likely to have special education needs. In addition, nearly 60% of NYC students entering middle school over-age are concentrated in just 25% of the City’s middle schools and large populations of over-age students are located in high-need communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

    There is also a correlation between over-age status and school attendance: after the sixth grade, even one- year over-age students have lower attendance rates than their on-track peers, and attendance rates continue to decrease as students drop further and further behind. Moreover, educators and advocates report a strong correlation between significant disruptions in schooling and over- age status.

    My clients are frustrated by the lack of educational options available to them. Many over-age middle schoolers are not eligible for any of the DOE’s alternative programs and are faced with the option of staying in schools where they are incredibly uncomfortable or dropping out before they make it to high school.”

    Ashley Grant, Staff Attorney for Advocates for Children of New York

    The report urges the DOE to act promptly to create and expand alternative program options for over-age middle school students. The report also recommends further revising promotion policies at all grade levels; making promotion appeals more accessible to families by creating an appeals form and designating central-based staff to assist in difficult cases; and fostering information-sharing by establishing central-based supports for schools serving over-age students.

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