Fulton Graduation Rates Show Areas of Celebration and Concern

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FULTON – Executive Director of Instruction and Assessment for Fulton City School District, Elizabeth Conners recently broke down the graduation rates for students in the district noting both areas of excellence as well as areas of concern.

At the most recent regular board of education meeting held Jan. 26, Conners presented an overview of the graduation rates for the three most recent graduation cohorts including students who entered high school as freshmen in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and subsequently graduated in four years in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

During these years, the graduation rates have differed widely with the most recent graduating class of 2015 reaching a 69-70% graduation rate.

Specifically for this class of students, 70.6% of G. Ray Bodley students and 69.3% of Fulton City School District students graduated in June with a local, regents or regents with advanced designation diploma after four years.

Conners noted that there was a five student difference in those who did not attend G. Ray Bodley for this class of students, in which all of those students received intensive special education at CiTi.

These statistics are down from the 78.1% of NYS graduates in the 2015 class, and from the 76.3% of G. Ray Bodley students and 75.5% of FCSD students graduated in the same category in 2014.

However, both the 2014 and 2015 June graduation rates increased from those in the 2009 cohort (2013 four year graduates) which came in at 64.6% of G. Ray Bodley students and 62.8% of FCSD students.

Although the June rate is the most commonly publicized rate of graduation, Conners explained that “realistically, some students graduate in August after summer school, credit recovery, or whatever work they need to do to ensure they graduate.”

For the 2015 graduating class within four years of school, a 2% increase was recorded in the August rates for both G. Ray Bodley students and FCSD students, totaling a 72.4% and 71.1% graduation rate respectively.

In comparison to data from similar school districts, FCSD performs in line with other districts staying within 2% for the 2015 four year graduating class against similar districts such as Auburn and Cortland and performing better than similar districts such as Watertown, Amsterdam and Gloversville.

Similarly, the 2010 cohort had an 80% graduation rate for five years students in 2015, finishing better than all similar districts listed and a 78% graduation rate for the 2009 cohort for six year students in 2015.

“The 2009 cohort was really low and we have looked into that,” said Conners. “But you can see, with a couple more years we had 10% more graduate.”

Looking into the dip in rates in 2009, it can be seen this was the first cohort year where more economically disadvantaged students were enrolled in the district that not economically disadvantaged students, a trend that has continued since.

However, separated in this category, students that are not economically disadvantaged have an 89% graduation rate whereas students that are economically disadvantaged have seen a decrease to a less than 60% graduation rate.

“We know this is our critical gap that we need to be cuing into,” said Conners.

Breaking the rates for the 2009-2011 cohorts down even further, we are able to see comparisons in Fulton students rates by subcategory.

Within these subcategories, FCSD finds many reasons to celebrate.

Students who are not economically disadvantaged recorded an 89% graduation rate for the 2009-2011 cohorts, a graduation rate that is much higher than all of the similar school districts listed including Amsterdam, Auburn, Cortland, Gloversville, Rome and Watertown.

Similarly, the students with disabilities within the district have a 55% four-year graduation rate for the 2009-2011 cohorts, scoring roughly 20% more than all similar school districts besides Rome City who also records a graduation rate over 50% of these students.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, FCSD boasts a far lower dropout percentage than most similar schools of students within all subcategories including all students (10%), economically disadvantaged students (15%), not economically disadvantaged students (3%), students with disabilities (13%), and general education students (9%) all from the 2009-2011 cohorts.

Proposals for new graduation requirements may provide some relief in helping graduate a greater number of students by giving the students more exiting options.

It has remained unchanged that each student will need 22 credits from specific courses to graduate high school in NYS with either a local, regents, regents with honors, regents with advanced designation, or regents with advanced designation and honors diploma.

However, the pathway to gain the diploma for a high school student has recently altered to include pathway assessments in less traditional course work.

With this new implementation, the requirements change from previously needing required examinations in math, science, English language arts, global history and geography, and United States history to needing one passed regents examination in each discipline of math, science, social studies English language arts and one pathway assessment in any one of the new categories including CTE, STEM, humanities, arts, or bilteracy (LOTE) and a new Board of Regents proposal for CDOS, career developmental occupational studies.

These pathways provide alternate options to exiting and include approved alternate alternative assessments, sequence of courses aligned to a pathway, CTE assessments and industry certified exams, and work based learning.

These options paired with the college and career ready curriculum and regents requirements that remain unchanged are expected to produce students who are ready in all areas of life post graduation including post-secondary study, additional career training or employment.

With the proposed CDOS pathway, students would complete all requirements necessary for any pathway and then earn the CDOS Commencement Credential by completing a set amount of 216 CTE course work hours in which a minimum of 54 hours must be from work based learning.

Another proposed exiting option comes as project-based assessments (PBA) as an option for students who are unable to meet state assessment requirements and would instead benefit by completing and passing a project assessment.

The student would complete a real-life project as developed by teachers which will measure the state’s standards in the required content area to be graded by trained evaluators.

Although the PBA exiting option is still just a proposal, school board member Christine Plath believes its a good option because, “some students just don’t test well.”

Aside from exiting options, enrollment trends may also provide insight to a lowering number of graduation rates.

Fulton has seen an increase in homeless and unaccompanied youth student populations as defined by the McKinney-Vento Act.

Conners finds reason to celebrate these students however, noting that she herself may not have felt obligated to attend school some days without a little prodding from her parents, saying “we really have to celebrate these kids and that they believe we are a safe place they want to be everyday.”

With proficient data in ratings and enrollment, along with furthering exiting options and placing as much emphasis as possible on individual success by student, FCSD looks optimistic in it’s road toward increasing rates.

“We know we have a lot of work to do, but I can say our staff are working tirelessly to get each student through,” said Conners.