Long Island HS graduation rates up nearly 13%

The graduation rate of public high school students in the U.S. is on a steady rise, hitting an all time high of 82 percent in 2014, according to the most recent data given by the U.S. Department of Education. The 2015 GradNation report states, “Rising high school graduation rates are a hope spot in America and a critical step out of poverty for millions of young people.”

New York State as a whole is also on the upswing, rising from 75 percent in 2013 to 78 percent in 2015. Long Island is no exception to the increase, rising from 76.4 percent in 2014 to 89.3 percent in 2015.

While a variety of issues can affect the graduation rate, statistics show that naturally the larger the student body the larger the difference will be between the size of the entering and graduating classes. This is apparent in the Brentwood school district which has the largest public high school student body on Long Island and one of the largest in the state, compared to one of the smaller districts on Long Island, Locust Valley. Dr. Kieran McGuire, principal of Locust Valley High School, attributes the schools consistently high graduation rate to a number of programs, meetings and an, “extraordinarily dedicated teaching staff.” While most might think the success of the school is due to the high-income area, he states its location does not affect the demographic of the student population from “running a full spectrum of issues.”

Superintendent Kevin Coster of the William Floyd school district, one of the largest on Long Island, understands the struggle of having to keep all students on track for graduation.

As a large school with one of the lower graduation rates, he said: “Tracking every student is a very big challenge because you have a limited number of guidance counselors and a limited number of support staff.”

They have implemented numerous systems including: mentoring programs, Regents boot camps, credit recovery programs, and new this year, “a psychologist exclusively geared toward working with freshman that are at risk,” to ensure the success of their students.

Regarding Regents exams, New York State students are held to a higher standard because of the additional state testing required for graduation. On track with the U.S. Department of Education’s plan to reach a graduation rate of 90 percent by 2020, the New York State Regents board is discussing “creating additional pathways to graduation.” Roger Tilles, the Long Island representative on the Regents Board said they are moving toward using a “certificate of skills” for trades such as art and technology where students can take performance tests or do projects that can be substituted for the Regents.

Effective education is the fundamental way to help America’s youth create a successful future.

“You know there are many different types of intelligence and skills,” Superintendent Coster said. “We need to provide the pathways for these students, and it all starts for them with a high school diploma.”