February 10, 2017

Higher graduation rates a reflection of hard work, greater state investment

Source:  NYSUT Communications
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ALBANY, N.Y. Feb. 10, 2017 – New York State United Teachers today heralded another year of rising graduation rates, saying increased investments by the state and local school districts – and the dedication of skilled educators – are ensuring brighter futures for more students.

While impressive, NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said the 1.3 percent increase in the state’s graduation rate – to 79.4 percent – is not truly reflective of the gains being made in classrooms across the state. The August graduation rate, she noted, came in at 81.4 percent – above New York’s goal of 80 percent approved by the U.S. Department of Education. And, Magee noted, the graduation rate for students in high-need, large city districts has climbed more than 6 percent over the last four years and is now more than 12 points higher than a decade ago.

“The message here is simple: When you invest more in student learning, students achieve at higher rates,” Magee said. “Hard work by students and highly skilled educators in classrooms across the state, supported by parents and caring communities, is moving the needle in the right direction. The best way to sustain these impressive gains is for the state to continue to make the necessary investments, especially by backing the phase-in of nearly $4 billion in Foundation Aid proposed by the Regents and education stakeholders, including NYSUT.”

While Hispanic and African-American students showed gains, NYSUT said the achievement gap remains troubling and the union re-committed to working to end it. Meanwhile, NYSUT expressed concern about an alarming drop in graduation rates among the state’s English language learners.

NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino said increased state and local investments – and alternative pathways to graduation supported by the Regents – are helping more students to earn diplomas. In addition, she said, “The August graduation rate shows that, when educators and students have extra time and support, dedication and persistence pays a real, tangible dividend. We should all celebrate a graduation rate that’s now higher than the target approved by the U. S. Department of Education in 2009.”

Fortino said the state should now be focusing its efforts on current English language learners, whose graduation rates lag far behind the state rate and declined this year.

“Urgent action is needed to support the more than 200,000 English language learners in our schools,” Fortino said. “Increased state aid for ELLs should be dedicated to those school districts serving this vulnerable population, so they have the research-based programming and supports that will allow them to succeed.”

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

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