New Haven Announces Dramatic Rise in Graduation Rates!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                            CONTACT: Abbe Smith
Tuesday, January 22, 2013                                                                  203-497-7015
Wilbur Cross High School achieves 8.2 percentage point gain in the number of students graduating on time
New Haven Public Schools on Tuesday announced a significant increase in its high school graduation rate in 2012 – up six percentage points to 70.5 percent, a clear sign of progress toward achieving School Change goals. The district also saw a decrease in its dropout rate of 4.2 percentage points, down to 21 percent.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Assistant Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries gathered with school and district leaders, Board of Education members, guidance counselors and college-bound students to make the announcement Tuesday at Wilbur Cross High School, which saw an 8.2 percentage point rise in the number of students graduating on time, up to 69 percent. On hand for the announcement were Assistant Superintendent of Schools Imma Canelli, Wilbur Cross Principal Peggy Moore and New Haven Promise Executive Director Patricia Melton.
The cohort graduation rate is the percent of students who graduate from high school in four years, a calculation introduced at the outset of reform and now calculated according to national standards both in New Haven and around Connecticut. The improvement underscores the steady progress being made toward achieving the goals of New Haven’s nationally recognized School Change Initiative.
“For the fourth year in a row, we have seen New Haven Public School's graduation rate rise. What we are seeing is not an anomaly; what we are seeing are the early results of our nationally acclaimed School Change efforts” Mayor DeStefano said.
“Strong improvement in our graduation rate is exciting news for New Haven and a sure sign that we are heading in the right direction with School Change,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo. “However, even as we celebrate successes, we acknowledge the hard work that lies ahead as we continue to strive to make New Haven the best urban school district in America.”
The preliminary figures announced Tuesday put the district on track to meet its goal of cutting the dropout rate in half in fives years, one of the three main goals of New Haven School Change. The initiative also seeks to eliminate the achievement gap by raising test scores to at least the state average and to ensure that every student is academically prepared and financially able to go to college. Leaders celebrated the progress, but acknowledged the hard work ahead to continue moving forward with School Change goals.
Other schools showing significant improvements in the graduation rate this year include Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School (8.3 percentage point increase to 90.4%), Riverside Academy (6 percentage point increase to 78.4%), Sound School (4 percentage points to 92.9%), and Hill Regional Career High School (2.9 percentage points to 88.5%).
Hyde School of Health Science and Sports Medicine continued its upward trend over three years, climbing 1.7 points to 79.2 percent. Hillhouse High School’s preliminary graduation rate was flat this year, which preserved the significant 9-point gain achieved by Hillhouse students in the class of 2011. The only school to lose significant ground on its graduation rate in 2012 was High School in the Community, which began its first year of turnaround this September under the management of the New Haven Federation of Teachers.
“The increase in the graduation rate is a testament to the hard work and collaboration of the many partners who work inside and outside of the classroom to keep our students on the difficult four- year path through high school and into college,” said Assistant Superintendent Garth Harries. “It is also a testament to the hard work and perseverance of New Haven students, who along with their parents, families and communities, play a critical role in the success of School Change.”
The graduation rates released today are preliminary calculations, based on cohort information provided by the State Department of Education (SDE).  The SDE will release the official graduation rates later in the spring, at the conclusion of a cohort verification process conducted with schools and districts.  Since the state began using the cohort graduation calculation, the final graduation statistics have been very close to the preliminary graduation rates. 
The preliminary graduation and dropout rates are factors in school tiering, the annual process in New Haven’s school reform effort by which schools are categorized and ranked according to student performance, growth and the results of school climate surveys. Annual evaluation of schools allows the district to track progress toward improvement goals and intervene when a school falls behind or heads in the wrong direction. Tier I schools are those with consistently high student performance, Tier II are schools with average or mixed performance, and Tier III schools are those with low student performance.  Schools that rank the lowest in the tiering process are selected to undergo an intensive turnaround process. In a promising trend, two of New Haven’s first turnaround schools – Brennan-Rogers and Wexler-Grant – ranked among the top ten most improved schools district-wide last year.
The district is in the process of making final tiering decisions and will release them a future Board of Education meeting in the near future. No decisions have been made at this time about school turnaround for the 2012-13 school year – those decisions follow the school tiering process.