Common Core increases graduation rates, but not in Buffalo

Posted at 11:29 AM, Dec 18, 2014

Graduation rates are up across the five big school districts in New York State after the implementation of Common Core standards – except in Buffalo.

Graduation rates have increased in Rochester, Syracuse, New York City and Yonkers for students who entered 9th grade in 2010, the first group of students to go through New York's Common Core standards, but fell in Buffalo.

Overall, graduation rates statewide increased to 76.4 percent from the previous year’s 74.9 percent. Also, students performing at college-ready levels in English Language Arts and Math increased from 37.2 percent to 38.1 percent.

Both Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and outgoing State Education Commissioner John King say this shows that the Common Core reforms are working, but the implementation of higher standards isn’t complete.

“While the increased graduation rates are encouraging, nearly one in four students is not graduating after four years,” King said. “It is imperative that we continue to support districts as they fully implement the higher expectations the Board of Regents has set for students and educators. We must make sure that we build on the progress the state has made since the adoption of the Regents Reform Agenda in 2009-10 - including the Common Core standards in July 2010.”

“We’re moving forward to create multiple pathways to graduation, each focused on a rigorous coursework and program of study,” Tisch said.

The graduation rates for the five big school districts are below:

  • New York City: 64.2 percent (61.3 percent for students who entered 9th grade in 2009)
  • Buffalo: 52.8 percent (53.4 percent for students who entered 9th grade in 2009)
  • Rochester: 43.4 percent (43.0 percent for students who entered 9th grade in 2009)
  • Syracuse: 51.1 percent (48.8 percent for students who entered 9th grade in 2009)
  • Yonkers: 68.8 percent  (66.4 percent for students who entered 9th grade in 2009)

On Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner King, noting that New York State lags behind in graduation rates and calling it "simply unacceptable." Cuomo says he will purse an "aggressive legislative package to improve public education."

In New York, the Board of Regents set education policy, giving Cuomo little power to change anything from the governor's chair outside of legislation. But that didn't stop him from questioning Tisch and King on several issues in his letter, including teacher evaluations, writing, "How is the current teacher evaluation system credibly when only one percent of teachers are rated ineffective?"

He also asks the education officials how they would remove ineffective teachers when the current process makes it virtually impossible to do so, how they would change the training and recruitment process to make sure the state gets the best and brightest teachers, what financial incentives they can provide to teachers, and if they feel the length of a teacher's probationary period should be extended before they are granted tenure.

Cuomo also asks what steps Tisch and King can take to improve struggling schools, specifically noting the "deplorable conditions of the education system in Buffalo."

The governor says the "education bureaucracy" is designed to sustain the "status quo and therefore it is often the enemy in change," which results in its perpetuation but it "fails our students in many ways."

Cuomo says tackling the questions he's posing "with bold policy and leadership" could transform education to focus on students as opposed to the bureaucracy.