the blog of Carol Burris

Poverty and Graduation Rates in NY

New Yorkers often hear about the horrible graduation rates in cities like Buffalo or Albany.  Yes, our big cities have the lowest four-year graduation rates in the state. They also have the largest percentage of economically disadvantaged students as a proportion of their school population.  Take a look at the graph:


75% of the public school students that entered 9th grade in 2008 in the big cities of New York State received free or reduced-priced lunch.  70% of the kids in NYC were economically disadvantaged.  And yes, their graduation rates were low.

Now look on the left. Only 8% of the students in low-needs districts (which for the most part, are wealthy, suburban districts) received free or reduced-priced lunch. Their graduation rates were very high–not only for their middle-class students, but for poor students as well.  In low-needs schools, the 4 year graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students was 85%–well above the state average for all students.  In schools that have average resources (and a higher share of low SES kids-25%), economically disadvantaged kids had a 4 year graduation rate of 74.5%–which slightly exceeds the state average of 74% for all New York students.  85% of all kids in average-needs schools graduated in 4 years.

A remarkable 44% of all of the New York State students who entered 9th grade in 2008 were on free or reduced- priced lunch. But I have yet to hear either the Governor or the State Education Department mention that statistic.

Is poverty destiny?  No, if low-SES kids attend schools with ample resources, and those schools are not overwhelmed by students who are poor.  The proof?  Look at the low and average-needs schools. Let’s close the funding gap and make sure that schools have what they need to educate the students they serve. We can start by looking at the intensity of services that economically disadvantaged students get in low-needs schools and proportionally scale them up in high-needs schools.

To read more about NY State graduation rates, tougher standards and poverty go to:

2 Responses to “Poverty and Graduation Rates in NY”

  1. Michael Lambert

    I also wonder how many more kids in high needs districts need 5 years to graduate. (These might as we be considered drop-outs for all the state cares.) The head of guidance in my school (60% frlp) estimates our grad rate would go up at least 5%. Add to that the number of spec ed students whose handicapping conditions require an IEP diploma. They also count against the school district.

    I suspect both those numbers are significantly higher in impoverished districts than affluent ones.

    Talk about a rigged game.


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