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June 18, 2013

Most area schools beat N.Y. grad rate

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Most area schools scored above the state graduation rate of 74 percent, which was released Monday.

Overall, state graduation rates for the group of students who entered ninth grade in 2008 and graduating June 2012 remained stable, according to a release from the state Education Department. This occurred despite increased rigor that has been phased into requirements over the past four years, including additional Regents testing.

Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said the results show the hard work of educators, parents and students across the state.

Sidney Central School Superintendent Bill Christensen said he hasn’t studied the data and so wasn’t able to talk about the rate for the four-year cohort.

In 2008, the four-year graduation rate for the class of 104 was 79.8 percent. In 2007, the four-year rate was 86.7 percent. The decrease could represent a couple of students who didn’t finish in June, he said, but the reason for the changes would be clearer when examined.

Overall, test scores are improving and that should be evident in this year’s graduating class, he said.

“The data just hasn’t caught up with that,” he said. As a district he would like to see a minimum rate of 90 percent, and that’s possible through several factors, including better exposure of all students to Regents requirements, including those with disabilities.

More is being done to discourage students from dropping out as well, he said.

Unatego was one of the few area schools to fall below the state average, with 69.7 percent of the 89 students in the group graduating in 2011. The rates will fluctuate based on the student body, Superintendent Charles Molloy said. For example, for the 2013 graduating class, the four-year cohort will be above 80 percent, he said.

In reviewing the statistics, every student is accounted for, and he felt the academic program is functioning properly. The school improvement committee is satisfied “we are doing the best we can. We will analyze results again this summer” and make any necessary adjustments accordingly, he said.

The results were above the state average at Delaware Academy Central School, where the four-year graduation rate was 83.6 percent for the 2008 cohort of 73 students. It was 87.3 percent for the similar group in 2007.

“We haven’t dived into the data,” Superintendent Jason Thomson said about the decline in the latest results, but noted it was still above the state average.

The reason could be as simple as a change in enrollment, he said. Staff and administrators will be examining the data to see what improvements are needed to increase the rate.

“We always look for ways to do a good job,” Thomson said. In interpreting the numbers, it’s important to remember that students who achieve a GED diploma are considered dropouts in this data, he said.

For the 2008 group, that was 2.7 percent. But for students with a disability, getting that diploma “may be their Everest.” It’s a big accomplishment there has to be a better way to recognize, he said.

Students are responding well to local testing that is being developed around the new state curriculum. This should continue to translate into graduation rates that are above the state average, Thomson said.

The graduation rate at Oneonta City School District for the 2008 group, totaling 162 students, was 75.9 percent. For the 2007 cohort, it was 74.4 percent. High school Principal Nancy Osborn said the district has seen a steady improvement in the last few years.

It’s trying better ways to help students from economically disadvantaged families to graduate, she said. Only 39 percent of those who are on free and reduced lunch currently are doing that, she said.

Osborn said steps to help that group and others include a mentor program for incoming freshman. Seniors who have graduated and other guest speakers have also talked with students about the importance of getting their diploma. Other steps being taken include more academic intervention services, she said.