The graduation rate at Kingston High School is up again — a modest jump of a little over a percent to 84.5, should the students in summer credit recovery courses complete their work as anticipated. School officials noted that the overall graduation rate for the Class of 2012 was just 72 percent.
That increase is connected to practically everything in the district, said Superintendent Paul Padalino, who frequently points out how frequently he talks about the graduation rate. In June, the percentage stood at 83.4 percent, but the August graduation ceremony should give the district a greater than one-percentage point increase. That’s something they’ve identified as an annual goal, one which they’ve acknowledged will become increasingly difficult the higher the rate actually gets. School officials have been viewing many of their other goals through the lens of the graduation rate, as they believe successes in other areas will be reflected in the number of students earn a diploma in four years of high school.
Though the district seems set to hit its targeted graduation rate increase, there were other areas where things didn’t fall in line. Fewer students in the district passed Regents exams in seven of the 10 courses in which they’re administered, but Padalino noted that the number of students who hit higher marks increased as well. The superintendent acknowledged that they’re still tinkering with what to do with information like that.
There is also the belief that some of the district’s academic goals may be unrealistic. Student median growth percentile on STAR early literacy (kindergarten) and STAR reading and math assessments (grades 1-8) increased by 0.9 percent against the district’s goal of a 3 percent jump.
“A 0.9 increase is huge,” Padalino said during a July 19 school board meeting. “A three-point increase is unbelievably ambitious. We didn’t see that, but we’re happy to say that we’re staying at or above the state average. And we’re above what is considered positive growth for our students using the STAR assessments.”
Padalino said that information will not only help shape curriculum decisions and other areas, but it could also help school officials set goals that aren’t overly ambitious.
Attendance steady, suspensions up
Elsewhere, daily attendance across the district stayed at 92 percent. “We did not reach our goal of increasing that by 5 percent, but we did not see a reduction,” Padalino said.
Suspensions across the KCSD increased by 0.95 percent, which Padalino said was disappointing but was not a reflection of the building effort at shifting toward the practice of restorative (rather than punitive) justice. Padalino noted that the school board approved a new code of conduct for the district in January, adding that professional development is ongoing, including a planned intensive course of study before the end of summer break. “We’re diving in,” Padalino said.
The district’s percentage of students with disabilities also remained static at 23 percent since 2016, another area where the district hoped to see a reduction by way of reclassifying individual students.
“Some of the things we’re learning is maybe we need to shrink our goal and extend our time period to do that,” he said. “Increasing attendance and reducing classification rates in students is not something you do in 10 months.”
Circling back to the KHS graduation rate, Padalino said he was pleased with the increases overall, especially in some minority groups. “Where we saw positive movement is looking at our black students,” he said. “Five years ago we were at 57.4 percent, this year we were at 78.9 percent. A 21.5 percent increase.”
The graduation rate for Latino students has also risen dramatically, standing at 74.3 percent this June, a jump of 17.2 percent over June 2012.
Despite the increase of students considered economically challenged — 40 percent in 2012, 55 percent in 2017 — they’re also graduating at a higher percentage than before.
“We have a growing number of students in that category, but a growing percentage of students in that category who are walking across that stage,” Padalino said. “That’s interesting data.”
The data was presented to trustees in a multi-columned PowerPoint presentation, but some said they felt the figures were unclear because many classifications included just a handful of students, where the percentages can move significantly by the success of individuals.
“It would really be useful to have numbers of students next to those percentages, because it can be misleading,” said Trustee Suzanne Jordan. “If you’re talking about a population of five kids or three kids, that has a whole different meaning as a percentage. The raw numbers would be helpful.”
Padalino said the most important part of the discussion is that it was happening.
“The fact that we’re setting these goals and talking about it is going to move the dial a little bit,” he said, “It’s about shining a light on a problem and focusing on that problem. We didn’t see the progress we wanted to see in year one, but we’re going to continue.”