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June 17, 2013
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JP O’Hare or Jeanne Beattie

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Statewide High School Graduation Rate Stays at 74 Percent Despite Higher Graduation Standards

But gaps persist; more work needed to ensure
graduates are college and career ready

New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. today released high school graduation rates for the 2008 cohort (students who entered 9th grade in 2008). Overall statewide graduation rates remained stable at 74 percent despite increased rigor required for graduation phased-in over the past four years. The graduates of 2012 were the first cohort for which a local diploma was not available for general education students (see end note).  King said today’s announcement shows the hard work of educators, parents, and students across the state proved the opponents of higher standards wrong.

Tisch noted that the Board of Regents recognizes there is still more work to do to ensure every student in the state graduates ready for college and careers. She said the Common Core standards, implemented in kindergarten through 8th grade in 2012-13, will begin to be phased-in for high school in 2013-14, when the Algebra Regents will be aligned with the Common Core.  The 9th graders who enter high school in September 2013 will be the first cohort required to receive Common Core instruction throughout high school and the first required to take Regents exams that reflect the Common Core. 

“Despite all the naysayers, raising standards was the right thing to do,” Tisch said.  “Our teachers and students rose to the challenge.  Now it’s time to rise to the next challenge.  The rates may be stable even with the increased rigor, but stable doesn’t equal success.  This is an on-going tragedy.  Tens of thousands of students are still leaving high school with no diploma and fewer options for the future.  And sadly, most of those students who do graduate aren’t ready for college or jobs that provide family-sustaining wages. Every year that goes by increases the urgency to improve our schools.  The Board of Regents’ reforms being implemented in classrooms across the state are a response to that urgency; they are a call to action for every educator in New York.  The full impact of the reforms will take time, but we’re moving forward, and we’re in this for the long-haul.  Our students deserve no less than our full commitment.”

“We’re just finishing the first full year of implementation of the Regents’ reforms,” King said.  “The graduation rates, the achievement gaps, and the painfully low rate of college and career readiness statewide are just more evidence of the need to act decisively to fully implement those reforms.  In Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse, less than 10 percent of the students graduate ready for the challenges of college or today’s high skilled jobs.  Those are more than just numbers; those numbers represent thousands of students whose futures are diminished.  We have to keep pushing forward with the Regents’ reforms and the shift to the Common Core standards.  Our state has some of the highest performing districts and schools in the country, but far too many children in New York are being denied the educational opportunity they need and deserve.”

Tisch noted that the Regents are exploring a Career and Technical Education (CTE) graduation pathway to engage students with rigorous courses that meet the Common Core standards while developing skills needed to succeed in careers after high school.

The statewide graduation rate for the cohort of students entering high school in 2008 remained at 74 percent, the same rate as the 2007 cohort.  Graduation rates for four of the Big 5 school districts remained relatively stable; however, Buffalo’s graduation rate dropped by more than seven percentage points.  The graduation rates for the Big 5 are:  New York City 60.9% in 2011; 60.4% in 2012; Buffalo – 54%, 46.8%; Rochester – 45.5%, 43.4%; Syracuse – 48.4%, 48%; Yonkers – 66.2%, 66%.

Tisch and King both expressed concern about the low percentage of students graduating college and career ready, particularly students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.   The performance gap between high need and low need districts continues to be nearly 30 percent, with nearly 94 percent of students from low need districts graduating as opposed to only 65 percent of students from high need urban-suburban districts earning a high school diploma.  King also said the graduation rate for white students is nearly 28 percentage points higher than the rates for Black and Hispanic students.  The college and career readiness gap is even greater.

Most students entering New York’s community colleges are required to take remedial courses – and pay college prices for high school classes.  Coupled with the state’s relatively stagnant college attainment rate, Tisch said it’s clear to the Board of Regents that continued urgent action is imperative.

A full report of the data is available at this web address: