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Graduation rate reaches 10-year high

But some schools and students left behind

The city’s four-year graduation rate climbed to a 10-year high of 59 percent for the Class of 2009 from 46.5 percent four years ago, as educators responded to an intensive national push to get students over the high school finish line.

Including those who received diplomas in August, the city four-year rate rose to 62.7 percent.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew praised the work of teachers and support staff who helped the graduates attain their goals. But he warned that the four-year graduation rate is a high-stakes statistic that leaves some students and schools behind.

“First, let me congratulate our graduates and their teachers on their success,” he said. “But let’s remember that the playing field out there is not level for all students. A single four-year grad rate can be misleading because it tells only half the story.”

Graduation rate reaches 10-year high

Special needs, ELLs and grad rates

Graduation rates for students with disabilities increased for a second year, to 24.7 percent, but that was less than half the rate of their general education peers. Just 8.9 percent of students with disabilities graduated with a Regents diploma.

By contrast, 42.1 percent of students with disabilities statewide graduated on time and 22.1 percent earned Regents diplomas.

“The city should be doing at least as well as the rest of the state,” said UFT Vice President of Special Education Carmen Alvarez.

The differences between English proficient students and English language learners was also large. Sixty-one percent of English proficient students graduated on time while just 39.7 percent of ELLs did.

However, the ELL rate was about four percentage points higher than last year’s class. Also, the ELL dropout rate is way down, to 19.4 percent from about 30 percent a few years ago.

Consequences

A recent UFT analysis found that the more students with disabilities and English language learners a school educates, the lower its four-year graduation rate tends to be.

The high-stakes result of this trend became clear when the city moved to close 15 high schools and the state targeted another 25 as “persistently lowest performing,” based largely on low graduation rates. The targeted schools, which face extreme consequences, have high numbers of special-needs students.

Racial gaps narrow slightly

For the first time, the Hispanic on-time graduation rate rose over 50 percent, to 51.8 percent for the Class of 2009, while the dropout rate fell to 15 percent, nearly half the rate of four years ago.

Among black seniors, 53.9 percent graduated on time, and just 12 percent dropped out.

But the graduation gaps remain large and are not closing rapidly. There is a 20-point gap between black and white graduation rates, down only slightly from 21 points two years ago. There is a 22-point gap between Hispanics and whites, down from 25 points two years ago.

Perseverance and excellence

The five- and six-year graduation rates increased, indicating that despite challenges, students are persisting in their studies. Two-thirds of students, 66.1 percent, now graduate within five years of starting city high schools.

The overall dropout rate has been nearly cut in half, to 11.8 percent of the Class of 2009 from 22 percent of the Class of 2005.

Meanwhile, the percentage of students earning Regents diplomas in the city has continued to rise. In the Class of 2009, 44.6 percent of students earned Regents sheepskins, from just 30 percent for the Class of 2005.

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