NY graduation rate improves ahead of review of requirements

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New York’s high school graduation rate continued to edge upward in 2019 ahead of a review and possible revision of diploma requirements, education officials said Thursday.

The overall graduation rate was 83.4%, up just short of a percentage point from the previous year, data from the state Education Department showed. The rate reflects slight increases across most racial groups, as well as improvement in each of the “Big 5” cities of New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers.

The persistent achievement gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers again narrowed, but still hovered around 15%. Just over 90% of white students who entered high school in 2015 graduated by August, compared with 75.3% of black students and 74.5% of Hispanic students.

The numbers represent students who graduated in June, as well as August.

New York City recorded a 77.3% graduation rate, up 1.4 percentage points. The rates in Buffalo and Syracuse held at just under 65%, while Rochester posted a 63% graduation rate, up from 59.3% a year earlier. Yonkers reported the highest graduation rate among big cities, at 88%.

State education leaders in November launched a two-year effort to rethink what a New York state diploma should signify and how to earn one. After a fact-finding phase, a commission is expected to convene in September to consider issues like the role of existing exit exams and whether alternative measures of student achievement would better serve more students.

“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,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, who initiated the review, said Thursday. “To do this, we must ensure that our education system is proving opportunities for everyone, especially our most vulnerable students, which is why the Board of Regents and the Department (of Education) are reviewing the state’s high school graduation measures and what a diploma from New York should signify.”

Over the past decade, the state’s graduation rate has increased by 7.3%.