Graduation rates up in most local districts

The graduation rate went up in most local school districts last year, including the Gloversville Enlarged School District, whose rate has been among the lowest in the area.

Gloversville’s graduation rate was 61 percent in 2012 and 56.3 percent in 2011, according to the state Education Department. Those rates are based on students who graduated after four years of high school as of August of the fourth year.

Despite the increase, Gloversville’s graduation rate remains the lowest among schools in Fulton and Montgomery counties.

“Sixty-one percent is not acceptable,” Gloversville Superintendent Michael Vanyo said today. “We need to make improvements.”

Vanyo said in order for the district to fix the problem, it has to be addressed through a model that involves kindergarten through 12th grade.

“One of the things I have been trying to do this year is make it not just the responsibility of the high school,” Vanyo said.

He said the district needs consistent programs and schedules in all of its buildings.

He also said the district is working to find programs for children who don’t fall into the traditional model by working with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

“Instead of having kids dropping out, we can put them in an alternative [education] program that can lead them toward graduation,” Vanyo said.

He said the district is looking for more career and technology programs so students become interested in a specific program and stay in school.

Gloversville school board President Pete Semione said the increase in the graduation rate is a step forward, but more work needs to be done.

He said better attendance is one of the issues the district is working on.

“We feel very strongly if we can get the kids in the schools, we can get them to graduate,” Semione said. “It’s not an overnight fix, unfortunately.”

Gloversville High School Principal Richard DeMallie said the increase in the graduation rate “doesn’t surprise me due to the hard work of our entire staff and specifically our assistant principal, Mark Batty.”

The Broadalbin-Perth Central School District had the highest graduation rate in Fulton and Montgomery counties. The rate was 86.9 percent in 2012. However, the rate went down from 91.5 percent in 2011.

Broadalbin-Perth High School Principal Robin Blowers said she wasn’t surprised her school has the highest graduation rate in the two counties, but she isn’t satisfied unless the rate is in the 90 percent range.

She said after graduation Friday, the district will be “rolling up their sleeves” on Monday morning to review the graduation data and see how the district can do better next year.

Graduation rates also went down in the Mayfield Central School District, which had a rate of 85.1 percent in 2012 and a rate of 88.6 percent in 2011; the Fort Plain Central School District, whose rate dropped from 80.6 percent in 2011 to 65.3 percent in 2012; and the Wells Central School District, whose rate went from 87.1 percent in 2011 to 82.4 percent in 2011.

The Greater Amsterdam School District had a graduation rate of 63.8 percent in 2012 and 63.4 percent in 2011.

Fort Plain District Superintendent Douglas C. Burton said the graduation rate fell in his district because each class has different dynamics.

“You can’t always compare one class to another because there are always differences,” he said.

Burton said changes in state assessments and the education system make it difficult to find consistency.

“Year to year, the consistency of assessments has not been there,” Burton said. “You have variations and changes, and it makes it difficult on all of our staff because we experience changes in assessments almost on a yearly basis recently.”

Burton said the district is always trying to adjust its instructional efforts through professional development centered around the assessments and data-driven instruction.

“I think that will make a difference, but the problem again will become that we may not see that difference because we now have different assessments than we had previously,” Burton said. “It is a difficult thing because you are constantly comparing apples to oranges.”

Three local school districts, Gloversville, Northville and Amsterdam, last year were designated “focus districts” that need to develop plans for improvement. The three districts were among 70 across the state identified by the state Education Department as focus districts.

Focus schools have shown “low performance and lack of progress in English language arts and math combined or graduation rates for one or more accountability groups,” according to state Education Commissioner John B. King.

The districts have come up with plans to address the issues.

Statewide, the high school graduation rate held steady at 74 percent.

“The rates may be stable even with increased rigor, but stable doesn’t equal success,” Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said. “Tens of thousands of students are still leaving high school with no diploma and fewer options for the future. And sadly, most of those students who do graduate aren’t ready for college or jobs that provide family-sustaining wages.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.