[UPDATED] Vargas says no excuses for grad rate drop

Bolgen Vargas. FILE PHOTO


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.



  1. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    I blame the parents. They should insist their children graduate from High School.

  2. This is a systemic problem. The article just below this one in the News Blog queue addresses Rochester’s truancy problem, and shares the interesting statistic that elementary truancy is worse than secondary truancy.we can blame whoever we want “a charlotte resident,” but the blame game doesn’t look forward to address the problem, it looks backward.

    The Graduation Rate is so low for a vast array of reasons. Poor attendance is one, students entering 9th grade completely unprepared for the tasks is another (social promotion leads to this in many cases). Student living environments that cause distress to profound that children simply cannot function as scholars (violence in the streets, itinerant single-parent-led households, low wages leading to poor nutrition, etc) is a third. A fourth (and my last point, though there are others) is a lack of emphasis on education by the community as a whole. a sub-50% graduation rate leads to over half the population “surviving” without having graduated. Granted, the role models might not be ideal, but those are the people the students interact with on a daily basis.

    How to fix the problem? I’ve gone on at length in previous missives to this site: end social promotion, re-establish a Children’s Zone, more adequate and accessible role models, among many other ideas.

    I can give you a couple suggestions as to what won’t fix the problem – more standardized testing and wasting people’s time stressing about a new evaluation method. (Of course, the new evaluation method can do it if people are so scared for their jobs that they are willing to fudge grades upwards and graduation simply becomes the culmination of 13 years of social promotion… don’t think it won’t happen somewhere.)

    “Fixing” the graduation rate should be a long-term goal, done at a systemic level. Trying to raise it 10 points next year (to pick an arbitrary number out of the air) and expect that to be the new normal is naive at best, fraudulent at worst.

  3. “Extended learning [hours] is the most important element we can put in place in our schools,” Vargas said.

    Ugh. No. It isn’t. What we’re doing now isn’t working, so we should do MORE of it? U-G-H.

  4. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    I agree with you, Dave. Throwing more money for extended learning hours will not work. The parents need to take control of their children, ensure they eat healthy food/beverages, feed them on a regular schedule, ensure they get some excercise and enough sleep. They also need to make sure their children goto school on a regular basis. It also means the parents should make sure their children do the homework. That’s how children succeed in school.

  5. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    Whose fault is it when a 8 year old misses school often, Yugo? Can’t be the tax payer’s fault. Oh wait, it’s the principal’s fault for not going to the house and dragging the kid to school. Yes, I’m being sarcastic for a good reason.

  6. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    You talk about role models for the children, Yugo. That should start with Mom and Dad.

    If Mom and Dad are in jail or ill, then a grandparent or another relative needs to step up and be a good guardian. If the child’s diet is full of junk food, then the parents should educate themselves on how to feed their children properly. Junk food is just as expensive as decent food.

    If the parents have to be at work before school starts in the morning, then they need to find a relative or friend to stay with the children until they get on the bus to school. As for the violence outside, that could be avoided if the parents make their kids stay home and do their homework instead of hanging out with losers.

    Again, the parents are suppose to do their job. It’s not the tax payer’s job, the school workers’ job or the city’s job to raise your children. We pay for your child to learn, the teacher’s help your children to learn and you need to bring your children to school on a regular basis.

  7. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    Yugo, I do not accept your claim “A fourth (and my last point, though there are others) is a lack of emphasis on education by the community as a whole. a sub-50% graduation rate leads to over half the population “surviving” without having graduated. Granted, the role models might not be ideal, but those are the people the students interact with on a daily basis.”

    That’s an insult to the City residents. Let’s talk about who grew up in the Charlotte area. Bob Duffy, former Chief Police and Mayor of Rochester is now the Lt. Gov. of New York state. State Assembly Rep. Joe Robach also grew up in Charlotte. There are still plenty of residents who raised families here in Charlotte. Their children grew up and became dr’s, lawyers, worked or still works for companies in the Rochester/Monroe County, NY region. Some became business owners. The majority of these folks have at least a high school diploma. I seriously doubt they have allowed their children to skip classes.

    I’ve been here twelve years and I have seen my school taxes go up and the RSD graduation rate has gone down. I have not seen it reach 70 percent. Anything below 70 percent is a failure. That failure belongs to the parents who let their children drop out of school or allowed their children to get so far behind that they couldn’t catch up with their peers. Stop blaming the community. It’s the parents who decided to sleep in instead of taking their children to headstart or primary school. Shame on them for torpedoing their children’s future. I’m ticked off that I paid all those taxes. I expect the parents to use those taxes for the purpose of educating their children. Instead, it’s turned into a babysitting service. When are these parents going to take responsibility for their children? Why are you coddling these lazy parents?

  8. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    typo: Let’s talk about who grew up in the Charlotte area. Bob Duffy, the former Chief of Police and Mayor of Rochester is now the Lt. Gov. of New York state.

  9. Uh…do either Duffy or Robach live in the Charlotte area now? Nope. There is no one thing that will influence a child’s success in school. To just say it’s one thing or another is setting us up to fail. Of course the parents have a huge influence on how a kid does in school, but so do the teachers and so does the socio-economic influence, and access to health care and so on and so on. And the parents’ ability to influence their children hinge on a number of factors as well. It’s a complicated issue and ALL parts of it need to be dealt with.

  10. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    So the fact that two former residents that did very well and still working for the needs of those who live in the Rochester region doesn’t count now? Oh for crying out loud.

    I see so if we just let the parents off the hook, then all the problems will some resolve itself. Dream on.

  11. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    typo: then all the problems will some how resolve itself.

  12. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    Joe Robach is a State Senator of New York. He represents the 56th district which includes part of the City of Rochester.

    State Assembly Rep, David Gantt and State Senator Robach are sponsoring a bill requiring City of Rochester School District children to attend Kindergarten. See the link below for the reason this bill is aimed only at the RS District.


    It has come down to this because both of these men know there are some lazy parents in the City of Rochester. They know some children are way behind their peers and yet their parents do absolutely nothing to help their children. I feel sorry for the children and very annoyed at the stupidity of their parents.

  13. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    This article indicates that Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy along with the Gov. and Assembly senators/reps created/passed the new budget that increases school aid within NY State.

    There is a reason why he doesn’t live in Charlotte these days—that’s because he’s working for the whole state including the City of Rochester region.



    The budget includes a total of approximately $20.4 billion for school aid, including performance grants to reward academic improvement and school district efficiencies. This represents an increase of $805 million in total education spending, with most of the allocated increase targeted to high needs school districts.

    The budget includes a total of $125 million to be allocated for performance grants, including $50 million in continuing payments to the school districts who will receive awards in the first round of grants, and an additional $75 million for a second round of awards to school districts.

  14. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    Anyway, what’s the point of handing out all that school aid if the parents can’t be bothered to enroll their children in kindergarten or ensure their children go to their classes (from 1st grade – 5th grade)? The state can not afford to goto every home to give individual instruction. That is usually done only in certain cases. The point is the parents need to get off their lazy seat and get their children to school on time.

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