BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO
UPDATE: (Monday, June 11)
At a press conference earlier today, Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas did not make excuses for the district’s anemic 2011 graduation rate. The State Education Department has released data showing that the rate was 45.5 percent for those students who entered ninth grade in September 2007 and graduated in June 2011. That’s a drop from 46.1 percent in 2010.
If you count students who graduated in August instead of June, the rate climbs to 49 percent. But either way, Vargas said, the district needs to improve; none of the Big Five districts are doing well.
Vargas pointed to four city high schools: School of the Arts, School Without Walls, Wilson Commencement, and Northeast College Prep as models that the district is trying to replicate. The low-performing Dr. Freddie Thomas, Jefferson, Franklin International Finance, and Franklin Bioscience high schools will close. The district is attempting to turn around East, Charlotte, and Monroe — schools with grad rates at or below 43 percent.
Though it’s too soon to tell, the district is expecting better graduation rates from its newer high schools: Leadership Academy for Young Men, Integrated Arts and Technology, Vanguard, Rochester STEM, Robert Brown Construction and Design, and Rochester Early College, Vargas said.
And Vargas took the opportunity to lower expectations for 2012’s graduation rates. Students who entered ninth grade in 2008 will for the first time need to pass five Regents exams with a score of 65 percent or better in order get a Regents diploma.
New York now offers local diplomas only to students with special needs.
Achieving higher grad rates will require students to sharply improve attendance and reading abilities, especially at the lower grade levels, Vargas said. The district is placing more emphasis on early intervention and offering extended instruction hours in the new All City High School and Monroe.
“Extended learning [hours] is the most important element we can put in place in our schools,” Vargas said.
Though the SED’s report is disappointing, Vargas said that students across the state are adjusting to an increase in standards.
“Sometimes we pay too much attention to the percentage and the number of years it takes to graduate, whether it’s four or five,” he said.
Rochester’s graduation rate for 2011 dipped to 45.5 percent for students who started 9th grade in 2007.
The New York State Education Department released graduation rates for the Big Five school districts earlier today. Rochester’s rate dropped from 46.1 percent for the 2006 cohort.
The grad rate rises to 49 percent if you include students from the cohort who took longer than four years to graduate.
City schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas will be making an announcement at 3:15 p.m. today about 2011 graduation rates at School Without Walls.
Buffalo’s grad rate increased to 54 percent. The graduation rate statewide was 74 percent for 2011. Rochester’s rate is the lowest of the Big Five school districts.