Graduation Rate Rises To 70.5%

Melissa Bailey PhotoWilbur Cross and Coop High led the way as the city boosted its graduation rate by six points last year, according to preliminary data announced Tuesday.

In a press conference at Wilbur Cross, the city released a school-by-school breakdown behind the city’s high school graduation rate, which rose from 64.3 to 70.5 percent last year, the third straight increase in a row.

Click here for the school-by-school info; click here for a chart comparing 2011 to 2012.

The data show the dropout rate on the decline: 21.0 percent of kids in the Class of 2012 dropped out of high school, compared to 25.2 percent the previous year. The number of kids still enrolled in school after four years decreased from 10.5 percent to 8.5 percent.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries called the news an early sign of success of the school reform drive that began in the fall of 2010.

The four-year graduation rate is a sign of four years of hard work by staff, students and parents, Harries said; he called it more significant than a single test.

The schools are now on the way to the five-year goal of cutting the dropout rate in half, to 13.5 percent, by 2015, Harries claimed.

The district has fallen short of another major reform goal, to cut the 20-to-30-percent achievement gaps with the state on standardized tests in five years, Mayor John DeStefano acknowledged. “We have a long way to go.”

The data on the dropout rates is preliminary. The official number-crunchers with the state education department don’t expect to release dropout rates until April, but the schools needed to move ahead with the annual process of grading schools into three tiers. Those grades determine which schools get extra autonomy—or perhaps get closed and reopened as “turnaround schools” next year. Officials are set to announce the new tiering at Monday’s school board meeting at 5:30 p.m. at 54 Meadow St.

Officials announced the overall graduation rate for the Class of 2012 last week. On Tuesday it highlighted how individual schools performed.

Wilbur Cross, the city’s largest high school, 69 percent of kids graduated in four years, an increase of 8.2 percent. Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School boosted its graduation rate by 8.3 points, to 90.4 percent.

That’s according to a four-year “cohort graduation rate,” a measure of how many kids graduate on time. The calculation starts with the freshman class, adds in folks who transfer in, subtracts those who transfer to other districts, and calculates how many make it to graduation in four years. Kids who get a GED or go to adult education are considered dropouts. The method is considered more honest than those used in the past. So far, New Haven’s estimates for the four-year cohort graduation rate have matched up well with the state’s calculations.

Sound Regional Vocational Aquaculture School, a marine-themed magnet school, topped the district with a 92.9 percent graduation rate, an increase of 4 percent over the prior year.

Graduation rates rose at two other schools. Riverside Academy: up 6 percent, to 78.4 percent. Hill Regional Career High School: up 2.9 points to 88.5 percent.

Only one school, High School in the Community, saw a significant drop in its graduation rate. It fell by six points, to 53.9 percent, by far the lowest of any small high school. Assistant Superintendent Harries said that drop was one reason the city decided to overhaul HSC as a turnaround school, powered by a $3 million state grant.

NHPSHyde School of Health Science and Sports Medicine’s rate inched up by 1.7 points to 79.2 percent. New Haven Academy’s fell by one point, to 68.2 percent.

Principal Takes Issue With Data

Local officials projected Hillhouse High School’s graduation rate at 53.3 percent, which would mean it stayed flat compared to the last year. Harries said that would preserve a significant 9-point gain achieved by Hillhouse students in the class of 2011.

Hillhouse Principal Kermit Carolina took issue with the preliminary figure, which he said underestimates the school’s success. By his staff’s calculations, 137 students graduated in the Class of 2012; the school district listed another 123 as dropouts or non-completers. Carolina contends 31 kids were counted as dropouts or non-completers who should not be on that list—either because they either never showed up on the first day of school, or pertain to a different cohort of kids. Subtracting those 31 kids, Carolina calculated the school’s graduation rate to be closer to 59 percent, he said.

He also added that while Wilbur Cross has been filled to capacity, Hillhouse has accepted the brunt of mid-year transfers, which poses a significant challenge for the school.

“I just want to make sure that then data accurately reflects the hard work of my students and my staff,” Carolina said.

Harries agreed that Hillhouse faces the most transient population of any high school. He said that will be factored into the school tiering next week. He called the two-year increase a “great result”—though the graduation rate is still “not as high as we want it to be.” 

Harries said if anything, New Haven’s projections may underestimate the graduation rate. That’s because the state has better info on where kids are. Some students whom New Haven considered a “dropout” may have enrolled in another school district. Or they may have gone to jail, in which case the state is in charge of their education, and they are removed from the cohort of kids in the Class of 2012.

Data released Monday show the graduation rate has risen steadily in the past three years: It was 58.1 percent in 2009; 62 percent in 2010; 64.3 percent in 2011 and 70.5 percent in 2012.

The dropout rate has fallen: 31.7 percent in 2009; 27.6 percent in 2010; 25.2 percent in 2011; 21.0 percent in 2012.

The third variable—the number of kids still enrolled in college after four years—has remained steady until it dropped by two points last year.

The upward trends began before the school reform effort was launched in the fall of 2010. In the past two years, the city’s largest high schools have implemented federally funded credit retrieval programs, where kids can catch up on missed credits by taking classes online.

Harries said those programs have had “minimal” impact on graduation rates. He said the better outcomes have stemmed from a comprehensive effort to improve high schools, not one single factor. file name


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posted by: anonymous on January 22, 2013  4:41pm

You need more angles, not just the school rates. The State publishes this information not just by school but also by race, special education status, poverty status, etc.

For the 2010 Cohort, I believe the official graduation rates were 61% for Black students, 55% for Hispanic students, and 82% for White students in New Haven. Have all three gone up since then?  Are poor students doing better?

Without knowing which groups are actually driving the improvements, it’s easy for people to argue publicly about the data, e.g., about how they have more special education students, more transfers, poorer kids, kids kicked out of charter schools, etc. 

Nobody in this town will ever be able to make progress until they first agree on the information.

posted by: Solsbury on January 22, 2013  8:21pm

It would have been nice to read the quotes from the principal or students of that highly improved school where the event was held, instead of just a picture. Especially after the article celebrating her retirement.

posted by: True that on January 22, 2013  9:36pm

Here is what in find interesting.  First, when New Haven officials think they have improved data, they say,“it’s the school reforms.”. When the data isn’t good, they say, “we need more time with the reforms.”. Which is it?  Second, you cannot compare drop out rates from earlier than 2011 because the formula was different tha. It is now.  Third, the rates for BLack and hispanic students and those that receive special education services or free and reduced lunch are abysmal.  Fourth, it is no surprise that students from magnet schools graduate at higher rates.  At Sound School, for example, a very high percentage of their students are neither poor, receiving Special education services or are minority.  That means, they have a school full of students traveling miles to be there, whose families are of means, and who have had more successful school experiences prior to coming to high school.  The same is true for Career and Co-op, though to lesser degrees.  Let’s get the real numbers before there is a celebration, and let’s be honest about what is really going on in New Haven.  Those who should graduate do, and those on the borderline do not.  That is not a reason to celebrate.