- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - New York’s high school graduation rate improved slightly to 76.4 percent last year, even with higher learning standards, education officials said Thursday, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration made clear it is far from satisfied with the state of schools.

Despite a 1.5 percent gain in the overall graduation rate, the percentage of students earning the top “college-ready” level diploma held at 31 percent.

The numbers also reflected perennial problems of high-needs districts being outperformed by more well-off suburban peers, and double-digit gaps between the graduation rates of white and minority students.

Cuomo’s director of state operations on Thursday sent a letter to Education Commissioner John King Jr. and the head of the policy-setting Board of Regents promising “an aggressive legislative package to improve public education” and seeking input on topics from the credibility of teacher evaluations that give nearly everyone high marks to fixes for failing schools that have the potential to harm children for life.

“Tackling these questions with bold policy and leadership could truly transform public education and finally have it focus on the student as opposed to the bureaucracy,” Jim Malatras wrote.



Students graduating last year were the first who entered high school after the adoption of a 2010 set of reforms that included the Common Core Learning Standards intended to better prepare graduates for college or jobs.

“While the increased graduation rates are encouraging, nearly one in four students is not graduating after four years,” King said. “It is imperative that we continue to support districts as they fully implement the higher expectations the Board of Regents has set for students and educators.”

Four of the so-called Big Five districts - New York City, Syracuse, Yonkers and Rochester - made gains, the biggest coming in New York City, which posted a 64.2 percent graduation rate, compared with 61.3 percent the previous year. Rochester had the lowest rate of the group with 43.4 percent, compared with 43 percent a year earlier. Buffalo saw its rate drop from 53.4 percent to 52.8 percent.

Acting Buffalo Superintendent Donald Ogilvie said the city’s rates would be helped by alternative career and technical graduation pathways being developed by the district and state, along with programs that extend learning time and address language and cultural deficits in the growing immigrant population. The district was singled out in the letter from Malatras, who called its conditions “deplorable.”

“I think we’ve instituted many programs that will steadily result in better outcomes,” Ogilvie said.

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