New York state average graduation rate for 2020 slightly higher than prior year

FILE PHOTO: Graduates gather at Columbia University during coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Manhattan, New York City
FILE PHOTO: Candelaria Mas Pohmajevic, a graduating Masters student from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) is seen on campus the day before her graduation ceremony, which is to be held online due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., May 15, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

High school graduation rates in New York state rose slightly last year, new data released Thursday shows. 

The graduation rate for students who started the 9th grade at a public school in 2016 was 84.8% in August of 2020,  a 1.4% percentage point increase from the prior year’s graduation rate of 83.4%. Last year’s graduation rate was also 8% higher than the state public high school graduation rate from a decade ago–76.8%–state data shows. 

The increase comes after an unprecedented school year with multiple interruptions caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. In March of last year, teachers across the state had to suddenly remote instructors and students have had to grapple with the challenges caused by remote learning and multiple school reopenings and closures because of the virus. 

“Our educators, school staff and families have come together to support our students throughout this pandemic,” said Interim Commissioner Betty A. Rosa. “ The shift to remote learning highlighted a digital divide across the state that must be addressed to give all students a level playing field and we remain focused on educational equity for all students.”

New York City’s graduation rate increase was just above the state average with 76.3% of public school students graduating last year, a 1.5% increase from 2019 numbers. 

Low and average need school districts reported the highest graduation rates at 95.3 and 90.4 % respectively while the graduation rate continues to remain the lowest in the state’s largest cities. 

(Image courtesy of the New York State Education Department website)

There are still sizeable gaps in graduation rates between students of color and their white counterparts. But Black and Hispanic students experienced the greatest increase in graduation rates last year while rates for white public school students and Asian/Pacific Islander students that began the 9th grade in 2016 remained mostly the same as the year prior at 90.7%  and 91.1% respectively.  Last year being the first time graduation rate for students identifying as Asian or Pacific Islander surpassed that of white students. 

The graduation rate for Black students increased by 2.2 percentage points last year jumping from 75.3% for students who entered high school in 2015 to 78.1% for those that started the 9th grade a year later. Hispanic and Latino students also followed an almost identical increase with the state data showing a graduation rate of  76.8 % for students in the 2016 cohort of 9th-grade students, a 2.3 percentage point increase from the 2015 cohort. 

The gap between graduation rates for Black and Latino and white students across New York has narrowed by 9 percentage points, according to state data. American Indian/Alaskan Native students improved their graduation rate by 2.2 percentage points from last year to this year.