Buffalo Public School system is in the headline news again for having one of the lowest graduation rates second to Rochester, NY. from among the five big city school districts (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers, NYC) in the state. The latest figures the NYS Ed Dept released showed Buffalo Public Schools graduation rate fell below 48%.
Some in the community blamed the low rate on newly appointed Superintendent Dr. Pamela C. Brown such as incoming board member Carl Paladino.
Yet, NYS students graduating in 2012 (who were 9th grade students in 2008) are the first cohort of students required to take all five Regents Exams with a passing score of 65 and obtain a Regents Diploma in order to graduate.
In the past before the Board of Regents changed the playing field, school districts offered the Local Diploma that nearly 15% of NYS public high school students received in 2009. But the graduates most impacted when Board of Regents eliminated the Local Diploma as a pathway to graduation was the class of 2012.
So if you entered as a freshman in 2008, unless classified as a student with disabilities, the cohort was not offered the Local Diploma as a pathway to graduation. This is one reason why the graduation rates in Buffalo Public Schools fell below 48%.
The local diploma as a pathway to graduation must be offered again in NYS. In 2009, nearly 40% of English Language Learners (ELL) and students with disabilities obtained the Local Diploma, while the overall State figure was nearly 15%. Now the dropout rates are higher for these students since the 2008 freshman cohort no longer offered the Local Diploma as a pathway to graduation.
Even the appeals process is challenging requiring students to have attained within 3 points of 65, a 95% attendance rate and other such requirements to get a Regents Diploma. While before NYS students had the Local Diploma now all must meet the requirements of a 65 passing score on the Regents Exams unless it's a students with disabilities still offered a local diploma passing with the old score of 55.
In the BPS other policy changes have impacted graduation rates such as when the School Board eliminated social promotion causing a higher number of students to remain in elementary school until they become overage and drop. Another contributing factor is the School Board policy that required students to stay in school until they complete the school year when they reach 17 instead of the State compulsory age of 16.
Thus, more pathways to graduation are needed because the cookie cutter one the NYS Board of Regents created aggravated the dropout rates in the State stifling the aspirations and dreams of hundreds of students who otherwise could have graduated. Now the pipeline to prison is more of a reality.