BUFFALO (AP) - New York's high school graduation rate continues to inch upward, but too few of the students earning diplomas are ready for college and careers, state education officials said Monday.
About three out of four students, 74 percent, who entered high school in 2007 graduated after four years, in June 2011, according to data released by the Education Department. That was slightly better than the 73.4 percent graduation rate for the class before it.
Nevertheless, only about a third of the students in the statewide class of 2011 met thresholds considered to be measures of college and career readiness.
Those so-called "aspirational performance measures" include earning an advanced Regents diploma, which 30.6 percent of the class of 2011 achieved, and scoring at least 75 on the Regents English exam and 80 on the Regents math exam, which 34.7 percent of students accomplished.
"New York's overall graduation rate has improved, but nearly a quarter of our students still don't graduate after four years," Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said, "and too many of those students who do graduate aren't ready for college and careers."
Locally, many of the rates for 2010-11 were below the state percentage.
The Gloversville Enlarged School District's graduation rate for 2010-11 - based on the number of students who graduated at the end of the school year, in June, after four years - was 54 percent, the lowest in Fulton County. The previous year's rate was 62 percent.
Gloversville Superintendent Clifford Moses said some of the efforts the district is making now will help improve the graduation rate.
"Some kids it takes longer," he said. "Some kids with disabilities, it takes six years to finish."
"I think the bottom line is 'Are these kids getting their degrees?' And if you look at the six-year total, it's a lot better. We're striving to improve both of those areas."
Gloversville Board of Education President Pete Semione said the district is disappointed in the rates.
"We know the changes we put in won't be overnight, [but] it's really time for the staff to turn this around sooner than later," he said.
"Hopefully, we can reach the students through the parents. It's going to take, unfortunately, a little bit of time to turn this around. But we will fix it," Semione said.
The Broadalbin-Perth School District's rate for 2010-11 was 92 percent, the highest in Fulton County. The rate is up from 91 percent the previous year.
Broadalbin-Perth Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said the rate is high "because we work really close with the students and parents to ensure they stay invested in their education.
"It's needs to be higher," he said. "Certainly, we are pleased that we are performing very well in our region. But for Broadalbin-Perth to have one student drop out, that means we haven't done our job. Until we have a 100 percent graduate rate, I won't be 100 percent content."
In two other local districts, the Mayfield rate went from 83 percent in 2009-10 to 89 percent in 2010-11; and the Northville rate went from 69 percent in 2009-10 to 75 percent in 2010-11.
The state's shift in the next school year to nationally accepted Common Core standards, along with greater emphasis on teacher effectiveness and the lowest-performing schools, is meant to raise the quality of a high school diploma, officials said. The Common Core standards set uniform benchmarks for what high school students should know at graduation to be prepared to continue their education or go to work.
"Our students are competing globally," Education Commissioner John King Jr. said. "That competition demands that we keep improving our graduation rates. But it also demands that we close the achievement gap and make sure students who do graduate are ready for college and careers."
The department's analysis of graduation rates also found that large gaps - 27 percentage points - continue to exist between the graduation rates of white students and their black and Hispanic classmates, even though minority graduation rates increased slightly, to about 58 percent, among students who entered high school in 2007.
Meanwhile, students in the Big Five Districts of Buffalo, Syracuse, Yonkers, New York City and Rochester again graduated at rates lower than the statewide average, though students in Buffalo, Syracuse and Yonkers fared better than the classes before them while New York City and Rochester posted slight declines.
The Alliance for Quality Education said the state has until recently made greater strides toward improving the graduation rates, but that property tax limits and shifts in state aid have hampered progress.
"The recent policies coming out of Albany have eliminated sorely needed teaching and educator positions as well as stripped many classrooms of critical programs such as pre-k, tutoring, sports and college prep," said Nikki Jones, spokeswoman for the AQE, a school aid lobbying group funded by education foundations and teachers unions. "It's pertinent that Albany reevaluates its devastating policies such as the property tax cap and state aid cap to stop our public schools from continuing to move in the wrong direction."