By Dan King
For the second year in a row, Whitehall Central School’s graduation rates are up.
This year the increase is 5 percent from a year ago, state data released last week shows. The four-year graduation rate this year is at 81 percent, compared with 76 percent a year prior.
The 81 percent figure puts Whitehall 3 percent ahead of the state average of 78 percent. Last year Whitehall was slightly below the state average.
In this year’s data, of the 19 percent that did not graduate within four years of entering high school, a majority are still enrolled. Of the total students in the cohort, 12 percent are still enrolled, 1
percent have an IEP and 4 percent have dropped out. None has enrolled in a GED, the data shows.
The 4 percent dropout rate is down 5 percent from a year ago, another positive piece of data.
Interim junior/senior high school Principal Mark Doody said he was happy to see the data trending in the right direction, but said he feels there is still plenty of work to do.
“Obviously it’s a good start and I think our staff is doing all the right stuff to move it in the right direction,” he said.
The data is even better for students in general education classrooms and those who are “not economically disadvantaged.”
Doody said that the correlation between poverty and graduation is one of the most noticeable trends, not only in Whitehall, but in every school district.
General education students are graduating at an 87 percent rate (compared with 79 percent last year) and students who are not economically disadvantaged are graduating at a rate of 84 percent (up from 76 percent the year prior).
However, students who are disadvantaged economically and those with disabilities have seen their graduation rates decline from last year. Seventy-six percent of economically disadvantaged students graduated within four years of entering high school (down 2 percent from last year) and 38 percent of students with disabilities graduated within four years of entering high school (down 25 percent from last year).
“A lot of times kids who are in poverty come into kindergarten with a lesser vocabulary and they’re constantly playing catch-up,” Doody said. “Poorer school districts tend to have lower graduation rates and higher dropout rates.”
Despite the lower graduation rates for both of those groups of students, the dropout rate for both groups has also decreased.
Zero percent of economically disadvantaged students dropped out (down 11 percent) and 13 percent of students with disabilities dropped out (down 12 percent).
Doody said he is optimistic in what the staff has continued to do at Whitehall to accommodate both students living in poverty and students who have learning disabilities.
“Our faculty and staff are fantastic, they’re always giving students extra attention when they need it,” he said.
Last year, male and female students graduated at a similar rate, with females three times as likely to drop out. This year, there’s been a reversal in that trend.
Female students are graduating at a rate of 84 percent, compared with 78 percent for their male counterparts. Males are also twice as likely as females to drop out at Whitehall, with 6 percent of males dropping out and 3 percent of females.