The State Education Department has released graduation rates for the students who entered high school in 2008. The short answer is that 74 percent of them statewide graduated in June 2012, the same percentage who graduated in June 2011 after four years.
Comparing the data over five years, the state shows a gradual increase in the percentage of students in all economic brackets who receive Regents (or local) diplomas after four years:
* urban-suburban districts showed graduation rates moving from 61.7 percent for those who started high school in 2004 and graduated in 2008 to 65.1 percent between those who started high school in 2008 and graduated in 2012
* average need districts showed graduation rates moving from 80.4 percent to 84.8 percent
* low need districts showed graduation rates moving from 92.1 percent to 93.9 percent
There also is a gradual increase in the percentage of non-white students who are graduating in four years, although a noticeable gap still exists between the percentage of white and the percentage of non-white students graduating in four years.
For those keeping track, the 2012 graduation was the first year that the vast majority of students were not given the option of a local diploma so had to pass Regents exams with a 65 or better. State officials point out that there has been no drop between graduation rates for the years students had the safety net and last year when it was gone, and praised the hard work teachers, support staff and administrators did in making sure kids graduated.
The not-so-good news is that, despite the push to get kids to take Regents diplomas with advanced designation, the percentages of graduates who have done so are statistically flat statewide, between 30 and 31 percent, about where they have been over the past five years.
Another measure the state is looking at in this group of kids is those who earned at least a 75 in the English Regents and at least an 80 in one of the math Regents, calling this an “aspirational performance measure.” It’s the state’s way of saying these students have what they need to succeed in college and are less likely (if at all) to need any remedial classes once they start at a university.
Although this is the second year the state released aspirational performance measures along with graduation data, officials said the two years — 2011 graduates and 2012 graduates — really can’t be compared because the 2011 graduates still had the option to take the old Regents math exams.
Either way, only a small percentage of kids who graduated in 2012 met the aspirational performance measures and that went across the board regardless of economic status. Statewide, 35.3 percent of the kids who received a high school diploma in four years met the higher, aspirational, standard. Non-native-English-speaking students and special needs students fall shorter yet and non-white students (except those identifying as Asian) trail behind their white peers.
Local graduation numbers included nothing unexpected. With the usual exceptions, Westchester schools usually graduate more than 90 percent of their kids in four years, and the graduation rates of the schools with the highest number of kids in need have been increasing.
There were some surprises, though, in the higher standard. The aspirational measure was all over the chart, even among some of the most affluent districts.
Edgemont schools, which graduated 95.9 percent of the kids who entered as freshmen in 2008 in four years, had perhaps the highest aspirational measurement rate in Westchester at 90.3 percent. but most of the other rates were in the 70’s, 60’s and even 50’s for schools with graduation rates in the 90’s. Putnam, where a 90 percent graduation rate (give or take) is pretty common, had aspirational rates between 43 and 63 percent. Rockland, with graduation rates (barring East Ramapo) in the 80’s and 90’s, had aspirational rates ranging from 37.5 to 69 percent.
The state’s education officials have said all along that students were not graduating high school ready for college or careers (hence the introduction of Common Core) and these numbers, if they say what they purport, certainly bear looking at. We’ll be doing a full report on the numbers Tuesday.