By Jessica Bakeman
ALBANY - New York high school graduation rates last year remained at 74 percent, the same as the rate for those who graduated in 2011 after four years, but minorities, English language learners and students with disabilities had lower graduation rates than their peers, the state Education Department said Monday.
WEB EXTRA: Graduation rate information for all NY State districts
The rates of students who are considered ready for college or careers remain low, and the state's "Big 5" school districts saw decreases, particularly in Buffalo, the state data showed.
Graduation rates in New York City, Yonkers and Syracuse, whose rates are lower than the statewide average, dropped by less than a percentage point from 2011. But in Buffalo, the rate dropped by more than seven percentage points, from 54 percent in 2011 to 46.8 percent in 2012. In Rochester, the rates dropped from 45.5 percent in 2011 to 43.4 percent in 2012.
Two On Your Side asked to speak with Pamela Brown, the superintendent of Buffalo Schools. We were denied an on camera interview but given a statement. You can read the statement at the bottom of this article.
The state also tracks how many students are graduating on track to succeed in college or in a career. Those rates are significantly lower across the board.
Statewide, about 35.3 percent of graduates in 2012 were considered ready for college or a career. In Rochester, only 5.8 percent of graduates were college- or career-ready, the lowest of the "Big 5." In New York City, that number was 21.9 percent; in Yonkers, 22.8 percent; in Buffalo, 9.7 percent; and in Syracuse, 7 percent.
State Education Commissioner John King touted the stability of the overall graduation rates, given that academic standards have toughened in the past four years. He stressed the importance of implementing the new, more difficult Common Core curriculum, on which third through eighth graders' tests were based this April. High school students will begin taking Common Core exams next school year.
But he said the rates of college- and career-readiness among New York's high school students are "painfully low."
"In Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse, less than 10 percent of the students graduate ready for the challenges of college or today's high-skilled jobs," he said in a statement Monday. "Those are more than just numbers; those numbers represent thousands of students whose futures are diminished."
Achievement gaps between white students and minorities persist, and students with disabilities or those whose first language is not English continue to lag their peers.
About 58.1 percent of black students in New York graduated in 2012 after four years, compared with 85.7 percent of white students. The rate for Hispanic students was lower, at 57.8 percent. Asian students fared better than the statewide average, with about 81.6 percent graduating in four years.
Only 34.3 percent of English language learners and 44.7 percent of students with disabilities graduated in four years in 2012, compared to 79.3 percent of students in general education courses. Far fewer of those students were prepared for college or a career.
Statement from Buffalo Public School District:
From: Superintendent Pamela C. Brown
Upon my arrival in Buffalo, I learned that the District's graduation rate from 2011-2012 was around 48% based on preliminary results. In response to that, the District immediately implemented several strategies in order to improve our graduation rate, including the following:
Creating a College-going Culture through:
Setting an aggressive target of an 80% graduation rate by 2018
Informing the community about Say Yes scholarships
Ensuring that all graduating seniors apply for college and scholarships
Improving Instruction through:
Providing professional development for all staff
Conducting Instructional Rounds in all schools
Increasing access to student data for early intervention
Interventions for Struggling Students through:
Providing after-school academic programs
Providing a Credit Recovery program
Offering Summer School for all students
With these key strategies in place, we are very optimistic that increased graduation rates will follow. As always, it is our goal to provide a world-class education for every child.
The Superintendent later added; "We're improving instruction in all schools, as well as expanding the 37 successful Career and Technial Education programs."