Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash tells WBFO the Regents diploma rates released Wednesday by the New York State Education Department are "modest gains," but "good news" for city schools.
Cash said the district held on to gains made in 2016, slowing improving them in 2017 through the New Education Bargain. City schools posted a 4-percent overall increase last year, including gains in individual student groups.
"For example, our special education students made a little bit of an increase there, similar modest gain, but they made a gain," Cash said. "ELL students, they made a gain, but then they the dropout rate increased for that group. African American students, Hispanic students, all of the groups that we're looking at, we have data on all of that. Modest gains among the groups."
Cash said the gains reflect the district's "comprehensive" range of alternative pathways to graduation available to different types of learners and ages - such as "extended learning time programs, summer school options and community school Saturday academies - through a strong partnership with Say Yes."
Cash gave particular "kudos" to those high schools that already stand out.
"You know, we had Da Vinci, you have Hutch Tech, you have the Middle Early College, you have Olmsted and of course City Honors, they were all in the 90s, 90-percent graduation rates - 92, 93, 99, 98," Cash said, "and then you had 84 percent and 84 percent at BAFA, Buffalo School for Performing Arts, and McKinley High School. So you have seven, eight high schools that are doing really, really well as far as their graduation rates."
However, he acknowledged more work is needed. Cash expected the number of Regents diplomas to increase again in a couple of years, when high school students have had the opportunity to finish the New Education Bargain programs recently put in place.
"You'll see the rates for Bennett, Lafayette, East and Riverside, they'll also grow," he said, "and we're strengthening South Park, Burgard and MST - and that's all our high schools right there. We're encouraged, very encouraged by it and we're not going to stop until we get all these schools minimum 70 and then, shoot, start getting them into the 80 percent."