The graduation rates tell only half of this story. The other half is just how much did the students learn? I highlight our graduation rate because I believe that it is an indicator of our health as a society. For now, my concern is our HS graduation rate in New Rochelle. Note that in NRHS, we have over 3,400 students. Roughly 60% are students of color – that’s over 2,000 students. Over the last several years, I have asked questions about our graduation rates here in New Rochelle. I wanted to know what was being done to improve upon these critical numbers. The answers provided were always the same. Nothing new; nothing different. It seemed that no one knew how to address the question from a strategic, short or long term solution perspective. No focus group; no risk taking with different initiatives. Meanwhile, our children languished. Mind you that we are not expecting dramatic improvements, just modest; optimistic improvements and a public recognition that we have a problem AND that we have a plan. Look at these numbers and discuss with your school board.
The Graduation Outcome for 2005 cohort (HS Students who graduated in June 2009 – Note I am only focusing on Black and Hispanic students):
New Rochelle – HS 55% of Black students graduated while 51% of Hispanic students graduated on time. Yes the district will say that these numbers are a bit higher when you look at August or 5 year graduation or even yet 6 year graduation. Are they really? Did you know that the June graduation ceremony includes students who have not met their graduation requirements – It is not a certified graduation! Is this fair for the students who work hard and are eligible to graduate on time?
Let’s look at other HS schools with similarly situated demographics or as we prefer to say in New Rochelle “diverse communities”:
• Port Chester graduated 65% of Black Students and 68% of their Hispanic Students.
• White Plains graduated 70% of Black Students and 70% of their Hispanic Students.
• Ossining graduated 69% of Black Students and 65% of their Hispanic Students.
• Mt Vernon graduated 65% of Black Students and 50% of their Hispanic Students
Both academic and social engagements are integral components of successfully navigating the education pipeline. Research shows that a lack of family and student engagement is predictive of dropping out, even controlling for academic achievement and student background. My opinion is that many students are not given the extra support in middle school and 9th grade they need to successfully make the transition to high school.
By the way, our overall graduation rate, which includes all students, is 66%.
The New Rochelle Board of Education will now be discussing this critical issue on Tuesday July 27th at 7PM at their 515 North Avenue board room. Please come with your questions and statements.