New York high school graduation rate edges past 80 percent
By CAROLYN THOMPSON
Feb. 07, 2018
New York's high school graduation rate edged above 80 percent in 2017, putting the state on track to meet its long-term goals, but black and Hispanic students continued to graduate at much lower rates than white students, according to data the state released Wednesday.
The overall picture was one of small but steady increases across most sub-groups of students and districts, continuing a trend that's pushed the statewide graduation rate up 11 percentage points from where it was 10 years ago.
"We see incremental improvements across the state, holding onto last year's gains and slowly building upon them. And that's good news," Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. "At the same time, however, troubling gaps in achievement persist, and we must accelerate the pace of improvement."
The graduation rate for black students was 69.3 percent and 68.4 percent for Hispanic students, about 20 percentage points below the rate for white students. English language learners and students with disabilities also lagged far behind the state average.
District leaders said New York's recently approved plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act includes programming and supports to improve equity and sets a graduation rate goal of 83.3 percent in five years.
"When we achieve greater equity, we will see student achievement improve across the board," said Betty Rosa, chancellor of the policymaking Board of Regents. "And that will result in greater numbers of students graduating, regardless of their race, ethnicity, wealth, disability status or any other basis."
The state also has approved several alternative routes to a diploma that allow for assessments other than the usual set of Regents exams. About 9,900 students graduated through one of the new pathways in 2017, the first year data for the group was made available.
Statewide, the June graduation rate was 80.2 percent, up from 79.7 percent in 2016. The rate climbed to 82.1 percent with the inclusion of August graduates.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the city's record-high graduation rate — 74.3 percent when including August graduates — and an accompanying decline in the number of dropouts.
Among other large urban districts, Buffalo (62.7 percent), Yonkers (82.8 percent) and Rochester (51.9 percent) also improved, while Syracuse saw a slight dip in its June graduation rate, to 60. 5 percent.
In Rochester, district leaders said the 4.2 percent bump, the largest among urban districts, shows the district is "beginning to disrupt patterns of failure by keeping focus on every student by face and name to and through graduation."
"These modest increases offer positive signs, but still too few of our children are crossing the stage," Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams said.
The graduation rate for current English language learners was 26.6 percent, but for students who shed the distinction, the rate exceeded the statewide average, at 84.4 percent.