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January 16, 2020
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JP O'Hare

(518) 474-1201



State Education Department Releases 2015 Cohort High School Graduation Rates

Graduation Rate Continues Upward Trend, Rises to 83.4%

Achievement Gaps Narrow Slightly But Persist

Board of Regents & State Education Department Remain Focused on
Providing Equity in Education for All Students

Interim Commissioner Tahoe to Hold Conference Call with Reporters at 11:00 a.m.

 PowerPoint with Data Available

The State Education Department today released graduation rates for the 2015 cohort, those students who first entered 9th grade in New York’s public schools in 2015. The overall August graduation rate increased slightly to 83.4 percent, up 0.8 percentage points from 82.6 percent for the 2014 cohort. The 2015 cohort graduation rate is 7.3 percentage points higher than it was a decade earlier, when the 2006 cohort graduation rate was 76.1 percent.

August Graduation Rates
2014 Cohort 2015 Cohort % Point Change
82.6 83.4 +0.8
2006 Cohort 2015 Cohort % Point Change
76.1 83.4 +7.3

This year’s graduation rate improved for black and Hispanic students, for students with disabilities, and for both current and “Ever” English language learners (ELLs). Each of the Big 5 City School Districts saw gains and all but Buffalo had growth in their graduation rates that exceeded statewide growth.  The State’s charter schools experienced an increase of nearly three percentage points as compared with last year. The gap in graduation rates between black and Hispanic students and their white peers narrowed again this year. Despite overall gains, significant gaps in achievement persist.

“The Board remains steadfast in its goal to ensure educational equity for all children in New York State,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “The narrowing of achievement gaps is a step in the right direction, but we can never truly close achievement gaps until we address opportunity gaps. To do this, we must ensure that our education system is providing opportunities for everyone, especially our most vulnerable students, which is why the Board of Regents and the Department are reviewing the State’s high school graduation measures and what a diploma from New York should signify.”   

“While the continued upward trend in New York’s graduation rate is encouraging, there remains work to be done,” Interim Commissioner Tahoe said. “The Department and the Board of Regents is committed to supporting districts as they work to prepare our students for the next phase of their lives, whether that is college, career or civic engagement. We will build on our progress by further addressing achievement gaps to keep our students moving in the right direction.”

2015 Cohort Graduation Rate Data for the Big 5 City School Districts

Graduation rates among the Big 5 City School Districts increased this year, with New York City, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers experiencing increases greater than the overall rate of growth statewide. Buffalo’s graduation rate remained essentially flat.

Big 5 City School District Cohort August Graduation Rates
  2014 2015 % Point Change
Statewide 82.6 83.4 +0.8
NYC 75.9 77.3 +1.4
Buffalo 64.5 64.7 +0.2
Rochester 59.3 63.0 +3.7
Syracuse 62.5 64.5 +2.0
Yonkers 85.5 88.0 +2.5

2015 Cohort Graduation Rate Data by Need/Resource Group

Like the statewide average, graduation rates in all Need/Resource Groups increased slightly this year. Low and average-need districts continue to have the highest graduation rates, at 95.1 percent and 89.4 percent, respectively. Large city, high need schools continue to have the lowest graduation rates, and a significant gap remains between the graduation rates of high- and low-need districts. The charter school graduation rate increased nearly three percentage points this year, to 80.8 percent.

Cohort Graduation Rate Data by Race/ Ethnicity

While steady progress is being made to narrow the achievement gaps between the graduation rate of black and Hispanic students compared to their white peers, the achievement gaps between these groups of students remains significant. In the past four years (since the 2012 cohort), the graduation rate gap has narrowed by 3.4 percentage points for black students and 2.9 percentage points for Hispanic students, when compared with the State’s white students. In the past 10 years (since the 2006 cohort), the gap has narrowed by 8.6 and 8.5 percentage points for black and Hispanic students respectively when compared to their white peers. Statewide, black and Hispanic students each improved their graduation rate by just over one percentage point this year.

American Indian/Alaskan Native students, who represent the smallest race/ethnicity group by cohort size, experienced the greatest growth, improving their graduation rate by 4.7 percentage points from last year to this year.

The graduation rate for Asian/Pacific Islander and white students remained relatively flat while the rate for multiracial students went down by half of a percentage point.

The Board of Regents and the Education Department will continue their efforts to close the graduation rate gap through its review of graduation measures in New York State, the implementation of the State’s ESSA plan and the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, and by providing students with increased access to high-level coursework and Career and Technical Education coursework.

Cohort August Graduation Rates & Achievement Gaps By Ethnicity
Grad Rate
Grad Rate
Grad Rate
Grad Rate
2012 Gap
to White Peers
2015 Gap
to White Peers
Change in Gap
2012 to 2015

American Indian/ Alaska Native








Asian/ Pacific Islander









































Gaps in the graduation rate remain for our Big 5 City School Districts, as well. Buffalo has the highest achievement gap among both Black and Hispanic students when compared to their White peers at 12.3 and 16.5 percentage points respectively. However, this year in Yonkers, Hispanic students outperformed their White peers by three-tenths of a percentage point.

August 2015 Big 5 Achievement Gap Compared to White Students
  American Indian/ Alaska Native Asian/ Pacific Islander Black Hispanic Multiracial

New York City































*Data is suppressed due to small number of students.

Cohort Graduation Rate Data for English Language Learners

The graduation rate for English language learners (ELLs) improved overall this year. “Current ELLs” (students who were identified as ELLs during the school year of their last enrollment) improved their graduation rate by 4.8 percentage points over last year. “Ever ELLs” (students identified as English language learners in any school year preceding the school year of their last enrollment) improved as well, by 1.0 percentage points over last year.

With a graduation rate of 89.8 percent, Ever ELLs continue to show strong progress, surpassing the overall statewide graduation rate by more than six percentage points. However, current ELLs still lag far behind the statewide rate, with a graduation rate of 38.9 percent.

The State’s ESSA plan places a strong emphasis on improving the educational outcomes of ELLs.

Cohort August Graduation Rates for English Language Learners
  2014 2015 % Point Change
Ever ELLs 88.8 89.8 +1.0
Current ELLs 34.1 38.9 +4.8

2015 Cohort Graduation Rate Data for Students with Disabilities and by Gender

The graduation rate for students with disabilities has increased over the past two years; statewide, the graduation rate for students with disabilities went up 2.1 percentage points over last year.  Among these students, 30.3 percent earned a Regents diploma and 3.5 percent earned a Regents diploma with an Advanced Designation. In addition, 26.7 percent earned a local diploma.  The dropout rate for these students has improved slightly over time but remains flat from last year. In the 2018-19 school year, 1,255 students earned a local diploma through a Superintendent’s determination, which is an increase over last year of more than 294 students.

2015 Cohort Graduation Rate Data by Gender

Female students continue to graduate at a significantly higher rate than their male peers, with 2015 cohort graduation rates at 87.0 percent for females and 79.9 percent for males. The graduation rate for females improved by 0.7 percentage points over last year and the graduation rate for males increased by 0.8 percentage points.

2015 Cohort Dropout Rate Data

The percentage of students who dropped out of school remained relatively flat this year. Notably, the dropout rate for ELLs continues to drop, from 29.7 percent in 2013 to to 27.1 percent this year – but remains significantly higher than all other subgroups of students. Last school year, districts with ELL students were required to put supports in place to increase the number of ELLs that graduate, and to track and decrease the number of ELLs who drop out of school.

Cohort Dropout Rates
  2014 2015 % Point Change
Statewide 6.0 6.1 +0.1
Current ELLs 27.5 27.1 -0.4
Students with Disabilities 11.1 11.1 0.0

The dropout rate for students with disabilities remained flat this year statewide. The dropout rate for students with disabilities declined in three of the Big 5 city school districts. Buffalo decreased by 2.8 percentage points while Rochester went down by 1.7 percentage point. Syracuse’s dropout rate for students with disabilities had the largest decrease of 9.5 percentage points. New York City and Yonkers each saw an increase of four-tenths of a percentage point.

Four, Five and Six-Year Graduation Rate Data

As in previous years, the data shows that persistence pays off for students who do not graduate in four years. Some of the largest increases were seen for English Language Learners occurring with one or two additional years of school. The 4-year graduation rate for English Language Learners in the 2013 Cohort was 30.8 percent, with the 5-year rate improving to 38.4 percent, and the 6-year rate improving more, to 41.3 percent. That is an increase of 10.5 percentage points with added time in the classroom.  In addition, Students with Disabilities also showed a significant increase in graduates with one or two extra years – up 6.4 percentage points in the first year and 8.8 percentage points in two years, meaning 2,800 more students with disabilities graduated with a diploma with more time.

Students who are economically disadvantaged also graduate at a higher rate with more time, up 3.9 percentage points with one extra year and up 5.6 percentage points in two years, equating to more than 4,600 additional graduates. The achievement gap also narrows over time between black students and their white peers, decreasing from 17.3 percent after four years to 11.6 percent after six. Similarly, the gap between Hispanic students and their white peers narrows from 18.5 percent after four years to 13.8 percent after six years.

Cohort 4, 5 & 6-Year Graduation Rates
  4-Year 5-Year 6-Year % Point Change
2014 Statewide 82.6 85.7   +3.1
2014 Current ELL 34.1 42.2   +8.1
2013 Statewide 82.1 85.2 86.3 +4.2
2013 Current ELL 30.8 38.4 41.3 +10.5

Multiple Pathways to Graduation

The Board of Regents is committed to providing multiple pathways for students to earn a regular high school diploma, and the Board approved regulations to establish multiple, comparably rigorous assessment pathways to graduation for all students. By offering these multiple pathways, the Board recognizes the importance of engaging students in rigorous and relevant academic programs. Specifically, Regents-approved regulations recognize students’ interests in the Arts; Languages Other Than English; Career and Technical Education; Humanities; and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) by allowing an approved pathway assessment to meet the students’ graduation requirements; more information about these Multiple Pathways is available on the Department’s website.

In addition, in 2016, the Board of Regents approved regulations to establish a new Career Development Occupational Studies (CDOS) graduation pathway for all students. The CDOS Commencement Credential certifies that a student has the standards-based knowledge and skills necessary for entry-level employment. Previously, only students with disabilities could exit school with a New York State CDOS Commencement Credential. These regulations expanded to all students the opportunity to earn the CDOS Commencement Credential.

This year, school districts reported that more than 13,200 students earned a diploma through one of the new pathways, a 15-percent increase over last year.  The most popular pathway was the STEM Science pathway with 31 percent followed by the CDOS pathway diploma with 19 percent and the STEM Math with 17 percent.  15 percent of pathway graduates were reported with the CTE pathway, while 4 percent each were reported as earning the Humanities Alternative and Arts pathways respectively.  In the second year the Languages Other Than English Pathway was available, the percent of students who chose that increased significantly to 10 percent.

Re-examining Graduation Measures in New York State

Chancellor Rosa committed to rethinking New York’s graduation measures in February 2019 and in July 2019, the Board of Regents announced it will create a Blue Ribbon Commission to review the State’s high school graduation measures and reaffirm what it means to obtain a diploma in New York State. 

The Commission will examine what a State diploma should signify to ensure educational excellence and equity for every student in New York State. The Commission will consider whether adding other measures of achievement could better serve New York’s diverse student population as indicators of what they know and if they are career and college ready.

Earlier this week, the Board of Regents and State Education Department announced the first regional information meetings being hosted across the state to gather feedback on what a state diploma should signify to ensure educational excellence and equity for every student in New York State. The meetings are an integral part of Phase I in the Board and Department’s review of graduation measures and will offer opportunities for stakeholders and members of the public to share input.

The list of meetings scheduled is on NYSED’s Graduation Measures website. Please note that meeting dates are being added and modified and that pre-registration is required.

Data Collection & Verification

The graduation data is reported by educational institutions to SED throughout the school year. The 2015 cohort graduation rate data was available for verification until the close of the state data warehouse in August 2019. District superintendents certified the data in September 2019.  For more specific data points and for school- and district-level graduation data, visit the Department’s public data site. A PowerPoint presentation with additional data is also available

Conference Call with Interim Commissioner Tahoe:

Interim Commissioner Tahoe will conduct a conference call for reporters at 11:00 a.m. For call-in information, please contact the NYSED Office of Communications via email at: