ITHACA, N.Y. — In contrast to state trends, high school graduation rates fell across Tompkins County last year.

That news comes courtesy of the New York State Department of Education, which released its 2017 analysis of graduation rates earlier this week. For its 2013-2017 cohort, Tompkins County school district graduation rates dropped from 85% to 81%, with a slight uptick in the dropout rate from 6%, to 7%. Note that charter schools such as New Roots are nor reported in these statistics; public schools only.

On the balance, Tompkins County graduation rates are still higher than the state average, which inched higher from 79.7% in 2016, to 80.2% in 2017. Rates climb slightly higher, to 82.1%, once August graduates are counted.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, school districts with traditionally more affluent residents tended to have higher percentages of on-time grads. Statewide, affluent suburban districts led the pack, with urban low-income and rural low-income districts performing the worst.

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With the exception of Groton, every school district’s percentage of on-time graduates fell from 2016 to 2017. The largest drop occurred in Dryden, where on-time graduation rates fell from 79 to 71 percent.

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Female students graduate at a slightly higher rate than male students, 84% for the ladies, and 78% for the guys. Individuals that identify as an ethnic minority or multiracial had a countywide graduation rate of 69%. Students from economically disadvantaged households (defined as living at or beneath the poverty line) graduated at lower rates vs non-disadvantaged households, 63% vs 91%.

The group that struggled the most were individuals who were not only enrolled in general studies, but in need of learning the English language. For that group, the percentage of on-time graduates was only 43%. State education officials have expressed concerns with the lower graduation rates and higher dropout rates for these individuals, as well as the lower graduation rate of minority students.

“We see incremental improvements across the state, holding onto last year’s gains and slowly building upon them. And that’s good news,” said state education commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “At the same time, however, troubling gaps in achievement persist, and we must accelerate the pace of improvement.”

For those wanting to take a closer look at the data, the NYS Department of Education’s data website can be found here.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at