Making The Grade

ALBANY -More Chautauqua County students graduate from high school in four years than their statewide counterparts.

New York’s high school graduation rate rose slightly to 74.9 percent in 2013, compared to 74 percent in June 2012. Chautauqua County schools gave diplomas to 1,314 of their 1,625 students for an average graduation rate of 80.9 percent. State statistics also show 10.9 percent of county high school students dropped out of high school while 6.8 percent are still enrolled in high school after four years. In Cattaraugus County, 869 of the county’s 1,146 students graduated in four years for a graduation rate of 77.6 percent. Cattaraugus County’s drop-out rate was 11.5 percent for the Class of 2013 with 5.8 percent of students still enrolled.

Five area schools had graduation rates lower than the state average – Dunkirk (68.3 percent), Jamestown (68.3 percent), Pine Valley (74.4 percent), Salamanca (59.1 percent) and Silver Creek (74.7 percent).

John King Jr., state education commissioner, said the numbers “reinforce the urgency” of implementing the more rigorous Common Core Learning Standards which define what students should know in each grade in order to graduate ready for college.

“One in four students still aren’t graduating after four years,” King said, “and far too many students, even if they graduate from high school, still haven’t completed the advanced and rigorous course work to be ready for college or the workplace.”

To earn an Advanced Designation diploma, a student must complete additional coursework in a language other than English or Career and Technical Education or the Arts, as well as pass two additional Regents exams in math and one additional Regents exam in science. The percentage of students who complete the Advanced Designation diploma has remained relatively flat over the years.

The percent of students who graduated and completed the more rigorous and comprehensive coursework required for the state’s Advanced Designation diploma was even lower – topping out at Bemus Point’s 54.1 percent and bottoming out at 9.1 percent of Salamanca Central School’s graduates. The state average was 31 percent, a mark exceeded by 11 area districts (Bemus Point, Cassadaga Valley, Clymer, Falconer, Fredonia, Frewsburg, Pine Valley, Randolph, Sherman, Southwestern and Westfield) with Jamestown High School at 30.2 percent.

King said the disparity in Advanced Designation diplomas earned could stem in part from a lack of course offerings at schools located in low income communities. To obtain an Advanced Designation diploma a student must have 22 units of credit and pass eight required Regents exams with a score of 65 or better. The state Education Department will provide a report to the Board of Regents at the September meeting on equitable access to Regents with Advanced Designation coursework, including recommendations for how to expand access to such courses.

“Unfortunately, achievement gaps for minority students are not abating, especially when it comes to advanced designation diplomas,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said. “There’s clearly a lack of equity in access in the course offerings necessary for the advanced designation.”

In addition to graduation rates, the statistics show the number of students still enrolled after four years of high school. Chautauqua Lake has 13.1 percent of students still enrolled after four years of high school while Dunkirk has 15.5 percent of students still enrolled and Salamanca has 10.9 percent of students still enrolled.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.