Kingston City School District Superintendent Paul Padalino revealed last week that for the most part the district is on track to see further gains in graduation rates for students finishing high school in four years.
According to Padalino, overall graduation rates for the 2014 cohort are estimated to come in at 83.4 percent in August after students in summer school and credit recovery efforts are tallied. That would represent a modest increase from the 83 percent rate achieved by the 2013 cohort in numbers from August 2017, but the superintendent stressed that the higher they climb, the smaller the gains may be.
“We’re very pleased, but 100 percent is our goal,” Padalino said during the district’s annual reorganizational meeting, held at the Cioni Building on Thursday, July 5. “When we get to that 83 percent overall graduation rate and we make those jumps, those next few percentage points, those next few jumps are where our hardest work has to come into play and we have to develop programs like a SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education) program to make sure that we are reaching all of our students and moving things forward.”
School officials actually discussed two sets of figures: The graduation rate at the end of the school year and the projected rate for August. Padalino said the latter would provide an “apples-to-apples” comparison to the previous year’s rate as it wrapped the four-year cohort.
August projections are based on a number of criteria, including the number of overall students actively seeking to meet their graduation requirements by the end of the summer, along with information from prior years. For the most part, the current numbers reflect a decline in the graduation rate, both overall — 80.7 percent, compared to a projection of 83.4 percent — and in most subgroups. Projections, school officials said, would yield more concrete numbers at the end of the summer.
While the graduation rate across most subgroups have either already risen or are expected to rise above the August 2017 numbers, there are two areas where a drop appears inevitable. With no multi-racial students in summer school or credit recovery courses, the present graduation rate of 75 percent will not change, representing a two-percent drop from 2017. Padalino said that in smaller subgroups, percentages can sometimes rise or fall more precipitously than in larger groups.
“Remember, 2 percent represents around two students, two-and-a-half students,” he said of the multi-racial subgroup.
The graduation rate for the district’s Hispanic subgroup is also going to fall from the 74 percent clip at the end of 2017. In June, it was down to 62.2 percent, but the district projects that number will rise to 69.5 percent at the end of August. Padalino said the district needed to do a better job with SIFE and ELL (English Language Learner) students in the future.
“Students who came to us from, whether it was an emergency situation in Latin America or any other category that came to us, or were not age-appropriate for the grade they were in and were in a cohort they didn’t necessarily belong in, we’re going to work hard to have them through in August, and then in their five-year, and we report out on six-year graduation rates as well,” Padalino said.
“This is an area of focus for us moving forward, making sure we have the proper programming in place,” said Padalino, noting that Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Stacia Felicello was already working on developing a SIFE program. “This is something we need to do. When these students come to us, we need to have a program for them to get them where they need to be as quickly as we can so we can reverse this trend.”
Trustee James Shaughnessy asked the superintendent whether the district’s SIFE students included anyone evacuated from Puerto Rico in the wake of the damage caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Padalino said he didn’t believe so.
“We kind of expected it, and we were required by the state to report students that came to us, but I don’t think we had any,” he said.
In other subgroups, the graduation rates are projected to rise: White students (89.2, up from 88), black students (79.1, up from 78), and economically disadvantaged students (73.6, up from 73) should all see an uptick in the percentage of students from the 2014 cohort graduating within four years. The biggest jump, though, would be seen in students with disabilities, rising from 65 percent in August 2017 to a projected 74.7 percent in August of this year.
“We’ve seen some good work done with students with disabilities and some results there,” Padalino said.
When the 2014 four-year cohort figures are finalized at the end of August, Padalino said he would also include projections for students graduating in five or six years as well.
“There’s a leveling off after that five-year graduation rate, but the five-year rate does show significant improvements in most subgroups,” he said, adding that the district makes every effort to study the graduation rates to ensure they’re reaching all students in the future.
“We’re going to evaluate this and consider where we’re going to make changes and improvements and keep moving forward,” he said.