New York Graduation Rates Rise as Regents Mull Exam Changes


The number of students who graduate within four years from high schools in New York State are on the rise at the same time that state education officials are considering making changes to high school graduation requirements.

The graduation rate in the state rose to 78.1% for students who began high school in 2011.  However, while 88% of white high school students graduated on time last year, only 65% of black and Hispanic students did, and only around 50% of students with disabilities graduated on time.

In the same time frame, close to 7% of students dropped out according to the State Education Department.  Of that group, 62% were black or Hispanic and 64% were from low-income families, writes Elizabeth Harris for The New York Times.

Students in New York City also showed an increase in graduation rates, going from 68.4% in 2014 to 70.5% in 2015, up two percentage points.

However, large gaps were still found in city schools, with 85% of Asian students and 82% of white students graduating within four years, while just 65.4% of black students and 64% of Hispanic students graduated in the same time frame.  Despite this, each group did see increases.  Hispanic students made the most gains, with 2.5 percentage points.

Meanwhile, the dropout rate in the city is improving, down 0.7 percentage points to just 9% of students, writes Leslie Brody for The Wall Street Journal.

At the same time, New York officials are considering major changes to graduation requirements in the state.  Students in the state must currently pass five Regents exams in order to receive a diploma.  The passing score on those tests was changed in 2012 to 55 down from 65, while the exams have become more rigorous to align with Common Core standards, a skill set meant to better prepare students for college.

Officials are also considering increasing the number of options students have to show that they are ready to graduate.  In 2014, the Regents began to allow students to change out one of the two social studies exams required for graduation for an approved alternative such as a language exam or an assessment of vocational skills.

In addition, alternatives to traditional exams are currently being considered, including a proposal that would offer students the ability to demonstrate their mastery of a subject through a project as long as they had passed the class itself and also met any attendance requirement.

A separate proposal being considered would change the score that students must reach to appeal Regents exam results.  Currently, students must score between 62 and 64 to appeal if they have taken the exam twice and passed the related course.  The proposal would allow students who scored as low as 60 to appeal.

Students who are successful in their appeal are allowed to graduate with the score they have.

“This is not about changing our standard,” MaryEllen Elia, the state’s education commissioner, said in a statement. “It’s about providing other avenues for kids to show what they know so they can graduate.”