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City school district's graduation rate still stuck in the 50's


About a month ago, some board members were hopeful that the Rochester school district's 2017-2018 graduation rate would be the one that finally broke 60 percent. But at the school board's  Excellence in Student Achievement Committee meeting yesterday, district officials said the district is still stuck in the 50 percent range.
The Rochester school district's central office. - FILE PHOTO
  • The Rochester school district's central office.

The graduation rate for June 2017 was 52 percent, according to the State Education Department's website. The district's administrators' preliminary data  is showing about a 1 percent increase in the graduation rate for June 2018.

Five high schools out of 12 have shown improvement, led by East, School of the Arts, and School Without Walls. The others showed little improvement or a decrease in the number of students who graduated in June, district officials said.

School officials presented a brief report to the board members at the meeting and then collected the reports afterward.

"I'm definitely disappointed," school board member Natalie Sheppard – who chaired yesterday's meeting – said in a phone interview today.  "We'd been hearing that there was going to be this spike in the numbers. We need to do better than rely on credit recovery in summer school."

"We need to know whether they're going to college or to tech school by seventh or eighth grade," she said.

Board member Liz Hallmark, who was at the meeting, said she is also concerned about the district's slow pace of  improvement, but the graduation rate is moving in the right direction, she said.  School officials are collecting more data and tracking student performance more than ever before, she said.

But some people at the meeting asked why principals and school administrators haven't been able to do a better job of identifying earlier — in the students' junior year and first semester of their senior year — what credits they need to graduate.

"We've got to find out what is causing these numbers," board member Cynthia Elliott said at the meeting. She argued that school chiefs are not being held accountable for the progress their schools and staff are expected to make.

There are still 325 students – about 29 percent of students who entered their freshman year in September  2014 — who are enrolled in summer school. And there is still hope that the majority of those students will make up the credits they need to graduate. If they do, the district's rate could increase. 

But even though New York's Big 5 school districts, the Rochester school district included,  tend to rely on an additional boost in their graduation rates from those students who finish in August, the State Education Department tends  to emphasize the June graduation rate in its official report, which won't be released until later this year.