high school graduation rates
Graduation rates for Black students are up double the state increase. (Getty Images)

High school graduation rates in New York State rose slightly last year, new data released on Jan. 14 by the State Education Department shows. 

The graduation rate for students who started the 9th grade at a public school in 2016 was 84.8 percent in August of 2020, a 1.4 percent percentage point increase from the prior year’s graduation rate of 83.4 percent. Last year’s graduation rate was also 8 percent higher than the state public high school graduation rate from a decade ago–76.8 percent–state data shows. 

The increase comes after an unprecedented school year with multiple interruptions caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. In March of 2020, teachers across the state had to suddenly become remote instructors and students have had to grapple with the challenges caused by remote learning and multiple school reopenings and closures because of the virus. 

“Our educators, school staff and families have come together to support our students throughout this pandemic,” said Betty A. Rosa, Interim Commissioner of Education and President of the University of the State of New York. “The shift to remote learning highlighted a digital divide across the state that must be addressed to give all students a level playing field and we remain focused on educational equity for all students.”

Low- and average-need school districts reported the highest graduation rates at 95.3 and 90.4 percent respectively while the graduation rate continues to remain the lowest in the state’s largest cities. 

There are still sizable gaps in graduation rates between students of color and their white counterparts. But Black and Hispanic students experienced the greatest increase in graduation rates last year while rates for white public school students and Asian/Pacific Islander students that began the 9th grade in 2016 remained mostly the same as the year prior at 90.7 percent and 91.1 percent respectively. Last year was the first time graduation rates for students identifying as Asian or Pacific Islander surpassed that of white students. 

The graduation rate for Black students increased by 2.2 percentage points last year, jumping from 75.3 percent for students who entered high school in 2015 to 78.1 percent for those who started the 9th grade a year later. Hispanic and Latino students also followed an almost identical increase, with the state data showing a graduation rate of  76.8 percent for students in the 2016 cohort of 9th grade students, a 2.3 percentage point increase from the 2015 cohort. 

The gap between graduation rates for Black and Latino and white students across New York has narrowed by 9 percentage points, according to state data. American Indian/Alaskan Native students improved their graduation rate by 2.2 percentage points from last year to this year.

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