State graduation rates up overall, but racial gap remains wide

Jan 17, 2020

New York's high school graduation rate continued to edge upward in 2019, but the gap between white students and students of color remains "significant."

Data released Thursday by the state Education Department said the graduation rate for the Class of 2019 was 83.4%. That is up less than a percentage point from the previous year.

The rate reflects slight increases across most racial groups and in the "Big 5" cities of Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers. But the achievement gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers was still about 15%.

Dropout rates stayed about the same across New York State student groups. Statewide the rate was 6.1% compared to 6% the previous year, 27.1% for English Language Learners compared to 27.5% the previous year and 11.1% for students with disabilities two years in a row.

The latest graduation numbers come as the state undertakes a two-year effort to rethink the requirements for a New York State diploma.

Graduation rates for New York State's "Big 5" public school districts.
Credit New York State Department of Education

Buffalo Public Schools sent out a related memo, noting disappointment in the rates by Superintendent Kriner Cash.

"I am disappointed that our graduation rate did not rise more asignificantly in 2019," Cash said. "With 78% of our schools in good standing, I know we have the strong leadership, hard-working staff, dedicated parents and talented student to do so. I fully expect that we will hit our 4-year graduation rate goal of 70% with our class of 2020."

Cash went as far as to predict Buffalo Public Schools "will lead the state in graduation rate improvement" this year. He also noted that the graduation of students who take five and six years to achieve rose 4% to 68.7%.

The district said only seven of Buffalo's 17 high schools had a graduation rate of 80% or higher. Students with disabilities had a graduation rate of 51.9%, "an increase of 12.6% over three years," while English Language Learners was 33.2%, a decrease of 7.6% from last year.

August graduation rates by race.
Credit New York State Department of Education