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June 23, 2014
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JP O'Hare

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Statewide High School Graduation Rate Shows Incremental Increase, Achievement Gap Persists

Promising Improvement Seen in Graduation Rate of Former English Language Learners

New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. today released high school graduation rates for the 2009 cohort (students who entered 9th grade in 2009).  While the overall statewide graduation rate increased to 74.9 percent from the previous year’s 74 percent, large achievement gaps remain, particularly with respect to the Regents with Advanced Designation diploma, which requires the completion of additional rigorous course work in preparation for college and careers.  The groups at biggest risk of falling into this gap are black and Hispanic males in large city schools.   

For the first time, the Department released the graduation rate for students once identified as English Language Learner (ELL) and previously served by bilingual and English as a Second Language programs.  For the 2009 cohort, such students graduated at a rate of 71 percent, much closer to the overall population than that of current ELLs who graduated at a rate of 31 percent.  Such data demonstrate that when ELLs are provided with high quality programs they are able to achieve success comparable to their non-ELL peers.

“Raising standards and moving away from the local diploma was the right thing to do,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said.  “Thousands of our teachers and students rose to the challenge, and now in classrooms all across the state, they’re rising to meet the new challenges set by the Common Core Standards.  The full impact of the reforms will take time, but we’re moving forward.  Unfortunately, achievement gaps for minority students are not abating, especially when it comes to Advanced Designation diplomas.  There’s clearly a lack of equity in access in the course offerings necessary for the Advanced Designation.”

 “One in four students still aren’t graduating after four years,” King said.  “And far too many students, even if they graduate from high school, still haven’t completed the advanced and rigorous course work to be ready for college or the workplace.  Today’s numbers reinforce the urgency of implementation of the Common Core Standards.  On the very positive side, the graduation rate for students who previously were in programs for English Language Learners demonstrates that all students thrive when provided with appropriate support services.  The Board of Regents is taking steps to improve the delivery of ELL services and instruction.”

Graduation rates reported statewide and for Big 5 Districts have generally increased slightly for the 2009 cohort.  Graduation rates in the Big 5 for the 2009 cohort are as follows:

  • New York City: 61.3% (60.4% for the 2008 cohort)
  • Buffalo: 53.4% (46.8% for the 2008 cohort)
  • Rochester: 43.0% (43.4% for the 2008 cohort)
  • Syracuse: 48.8% (48.0% for the 2008 cohort)
  • Yonkers: 66.4% (66.0% for the 2008 cohort)

Graduation rates for high need urban-suburban and rural districts have increased over the past five years, however the performance gap between high need and low need districts continues to be nearly 30 percentage points.  More than 94 percent of students from low need districts graduate with a high school diploma as opposed to only 65.9 percent of students from high need urban-suburban districts.

King noted that the disparity in Advanced Designation diplomas earned could stem in part from a lack of course offerings at schools located in low income communities. To obtain an Advanced Designation diploma a student must have 22 units of credit and pass eight required Regents exams with a score of 65 or better.  The Department will provide a report to the Board of Regents at the September meeting on equitable access to Regents with Advanced Designation coursework, including recommendations for how to expand access to such courses.

A full report of the data is available at this web address:


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