- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The state’s high school graduation rate has improved for the fourth consecutive year, new figures released Wednesday indicate.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the improvement shows that efforts to boost state education funding, especially to poorer districts, is working. Malloy is expected to tout his education record in his re-election campaign.

“Our state is doing something very different, and that is allocating hundreds of millions of additional dollars to education and concentrating on those schools that are in most of need and those districts. And I’m proud of that,” said Malloy, appearing at High School Inc., Hartford’s insurance and finance academy. “You make those kinds of investments in the hopes that over a long period of time they will pay dividends.”

Data show the statewide graduation average increased by 0.7 percent from 2012 to 2013. That represents a cumulative increase of 3.7 percent over the 2010 high school graduation rate.

Meanwhile, the 2013 graduation rate for students attending high schools in the state’s new Alliance Districts, its lowest-performing districts, increased 1.3 percent.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, a fellow Democrat, said he has seen improvements in the state’s capital city. He said in 2006, Hartford’s high school graduation rate was less than 28 percent. He said today the rate has increased to 71 percent, which he called “a landmark high.”

But while Malloy stressed how graduation gaps between white and minority students diminished, a disparity still remains.

The data show 91.4 percent of white students in 2013 graduated in four years but 70.2 percent of Hispanic students and 75.7 percent of black students graduated in four years. Rates improve if students get a fifth year to earn their high school diplomas.

“And quite frankly, there’s no shame in getting your high school diploma in five years as opposed to four years,” Malloy said. “The shame is not getting your high school diploma at all.”

Joseph Cirasulo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said graduation from high school is the passport people need to “lead decent and productive lives.” And while further education is likely necessary, he said, students are unlikely to make much progress without it.

“And so, the fact that we are seeing a four- or five-year trend, where graduation rates are increasing in the state of Connecticut, is something to be celebrated,” he said.