Area high schools made big gains in the graduation rates released Wednesday by the state.
Statewide, the graduation rate has topped 80 percent for the first time in recent history, inching up 0.5 percentage points from 79.7 percent to 80.2 percent. This statistic reflects the percentage of students who started high school in the fall of 2013 that graduated by June 2017.
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Glens Falls saw its graduation rate increase from 79 percent in 2016 to 87 percent in 2017.
Superintendent Paul Jenkins said in an email that students have made steady progress during the last few years, but 2017 had the largest jump in the graduation rate. He credited the work of faculty, staff and students.
“We have made some concerted efforts over the last two years to focus on early identification and intervention with students who may be in danger of falling behind,” he said. “Our students, faculty, staff and administration at each building have been focused on reducing course failures, reducing the number of students failing two or more courses, reducing student absences, increasing the number of students reading at grade level and increasing the number of students involved in school activities.”
Jenkins went on to say that the district is discussing how to strengthen its programs and will devote an upcoming superintendent’s conference day on how to improve district-wide homework and grading practices.
“We will continue to enhance the classroom opportunities for our students to make sure we have student-directed learning activities and we create an environment where our students can focus on project-based learning to develop real-world experiences,” Jenkins said.
In Washington County, Argyle Central School saw its graduation rate jump from 70 percent to 95 percent.
Superintendent Michael Healey said he is very proud of the increase.
“It really reflects the dedicated efforts of our students, families, teachers and our staff,” he said.
Healey pointed out that while the district’s graduation rate for 2016 was 70 percent, the five-year rate is about 95 percent.
“Some students took longer than others, but they did graduate,” he said.
Healey added that the district has taken steps to make sure students are engaged with school. One new initiative is a clay target shooting league.
“That club provides a connection to school for students who might not otherwise be involved,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re meeting the academic and social/emotional needs now and into the future.”
Lake George is another area district that had a graduation rate of 90 percent or higher, with 96 percent. Its 2016 rate was 87 percent. Warrensburg also had a 90 percent rate — up from 82 percent the previous year. Indian Lake and Newcomb, small districts that have low enrollment that can skew the numbers, had 100 percent graduation rates.
Other districts that saw increases include Bolton, Corinth, Granville, Hadley-Luzerne, Hartford, Indian Lake, Johnsburg, North Warren, Schroon Lake, South Glens Falls, Ticonderoga and Warrensburg.
Some Washington County school districts saw decreases in their graduation rates. Salem went from 91 percent to 65 percent; Fort Edward, from 71 percent to 63 percent; Hudson Falls, from 81 percent to 73 percent; and Whitehall, 72 percent to 64 percent.
Hudson Falls Superintendent Linda Goewey said she is disappointed by the decline in the graduation rate. She attributed the fall-off to poor attendance, mental health and addiction issues and larger-than-usual numbers of students who require services out of district.
Goewey noted that when the students who graduated in August 2017 is factored in, the rate increases to 76 percent.
“We are continuing to work with the students who did not graduate, to help them earn their diploma,” she said in an email.
Salem Superintendent of Schools David Glover said he believes the 65 percent rate is an outlier as graduation rates have hovered around 80 percent in the past few years.
“While the percentages appear low, we still have the majority of the students from last year’s cohort in school. The state report might count the student as not graduating, but it’s simply not true. The students simply aren’t finished yet,” he said in an email.
Superintendents from Fort Edward and Whitehall school districts could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said the statewide graduation rates show steady improvement.
“We see incremental improvements across the state, holding onto last year’s gains and slowly building upon them. And that’s good news. At the same time, however, troubling gaps in achievement persist, and we must accelerate the pace of improvement,” she said in a news release.
The state is focused in its newly approved federal education plan on making sure there is equity in achievement among students of different races, disability levels or socioeconomic status, according to Elia.
She said there is still more work to do. The graduation rate for black students has increased from 68.2 percent for 2016 to 69.3 percent in 2017. For Hispanic students, the rate went from 68 percent to 68.4 percent. The graduation rate for white students increased by 0.3 percentage points to 89 percent during that time.