POTSDAM - The state education department released its graduation rates Monday morning, with many school districts in the area faring well better than the state average of 74 percent.
Parishville-Hopkinton, Colton-Pierrepont and Potsdam had among the highest graduation rates in the region. Clifton Fine (65.4 percent) and Harrisville Central (68.8 percent) had the lowest graduation rates in the region last year with summer school graduates taken into consideration.
Massena, Hammond, Morristown and Ogdensburg Free Academy also had graduation rates below the state average.
In Potsdam, 87.9 percent of students from the freshmen class of 2008 graduated within four years. Including students who graduated in August that number rose to 88.7 percent.
Were well above the state average, said Superintendent Patrick H. Brady. Theres been a very strong emphasis at our high school to ensure that students have a plan for completing their high school program. The administration, guidance and teachers work closely to identify students that are at risk to not graduate and provide individual services for them.
Mr. Brady said various programs at the school, as well as the districts vast offering of extracurriculars, help to keep students enrolled in school.
I think programs like the Capstoner project have been very helpful, he said. We also have a student learning center to provide additional support for students and a variety of classes and activities that appeal to many different interests.
As for the students who did not graduate, Mr. Brady said often times those are students not native to Potsdam who have come to the district from another school.
We find that if a student doesnt graduate theyre usually a transient and have been in and out of different programs, he said. It is not often that a student will drop out who has been in our four-year program for four years.
By comparison the districts five-year outcome with students from the freshmen class of 2005 is 89.5 percent, a number that did not change when August 2012 graduates were included.
The highest graduation rates in the region came from Parishville-Hopkinton Central School, where 93.2 percent of students graduated within four years, a number that increased even higher to 95.5 percent once August graduates were accounted for.
I think theyre the best across the four-county region, said Parishville-Hopkinton Superintendent Darin P. Saiff, referring to the districts nearly flawless graduation rate.
Were very proud of what our students and staff have done, he said.
Mr. Saiff said he thinks being a small school gives Parishville-Hopkinton an advantage over larger schools in the region.
I really think it goes back to relationships and being a small school we can have those relationships and connect students in a meaningful way back to the district, he said, adding that he also feels like Parishville and Hopkinton are communities that place a value on the education of their students.
I also think its a reflection of our communitys expectations and values, he said.
While Mr. Saiff was pleased with the figures, he said that he feels like a graduation rate of 100 percent is not impossible.
We still missed two, but that aspirational rate of 100 percent is still a goal and attainable for a school our size, he said.
Parishville-Hopkintons five year numbers were slightly lower, but still near 90 percent, with 89.4 percent of students from the 2007 freshmen class earning their diploma within five years.
Colton-Pierrepont Central School also had a graduation rate well above the state average with 87.5 percent of its freshmen from 2008 earning diplomas within four years, a number that remained the same once August 2012 graduates were also added.
Like Mr. Saiff, Mr. Kardash said he thinking be a small school helps when it comes to keeping children enrolled in school.
I think its the benefit of having a small school and a great staff, he said.
Mr. Kardash did say that while 87.5 percent is a respectable number, the goal is to have the highest number possible.
We always wish the number was 100 percent, he said. We know who the at risk kids are, and we work with them the best we can. Nobody falls through the cracks.
While being a small school has its advantages, Mr. Kardash also noted in a small school each student counts for more percentage points, noting the difference between a 100 percent graduation rate and the districts 87.5 percent rate was only three students.
When looking at the districts five-year numbers, Mr. Kardash said he questions the validity of the states report.
It doesnt make sense for that number to be that much lower, he said, referring to the 76.9 percent graduation rate reported for the districts 2007 freshmen class..
Graduation rates jumped significantly while dropouts decreased for students who were members of the St. Lawrence Central School class of 2012, according to figures released Monday by the state Education Department.
Of the 81 members of the Cohort class of 2008, those who entered the ninth grade together in 2008, 82.7 percent graduated after four years, including 21 percent who received a Regents diploma with advanced designation and 51.9 percent who graduated with a Regents diploma without advanced designation.
On the flip side, 9.9 percent of that class dropped out, 1.2 percent transferred to a GED preparation program, 2.5 percent were still enrolled after four years, 2.5 percent received an IEP diploma and 9.9 percent received a local diploma.
Those numbers were up from the cohort class of 2007, who graduated in 2011. They had a 65.6 percent graduation rate and a 12.2 percent dropout rate.
Of the 90 students in cohort class of 2007, 7.8 percent transferred to a GED preparation program, 6.7 percent were still enrolled after four years, 6.7 percent received an IEP diploma, 10 percent received a local diploma, 34.4 percent graduated with a Regents diploma without advanced designation and 21.1 percent graduated with a Regents diploma with advanced designation.
Superintendent Stephen M. Putman said the increase in the graduation rates and decrease in the dropout rate was gratifying as he prepares to retire at the end of June. Getting those numbers up has been a multi-year effort, he said.
Obviously Im very pleased. They are very gratifying. This is a credit to everybody - teachers, administrators and support from the board. Obviously its gratifying for the entire school, he said.
I have been telling the board of education, and Ive been preaching to the faculty that this is a long-term process. Over these eight years (as superintendent) we started putting a lot of money and personnel into early literacy, Mr. Putman said.
Among their efforts, he said, was the implementation of an elementary-level program using funding from the Reading First grant.
The Reading First Grant, which is part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, targets children in high-poverty, low-achieving schools. Its goal is to ensure that all children learn to read by the end of third grade.
In addition to the implementation of that program, Mr. Putman said they limited staff professional development to very specific things that addressed literacy. In the middle school, for instance, the focus is on non-fiction writing.
I think were starting to see the fruits of those activities. I just think the efforts we put into early literacy are paying dividends. It takes time to go through things that have an impact, he said.
Although theyre waiting to see how students fare on this years Regents examinations, Mr. Putman said he was confident that their graduation rate would stay in the 80s. But he hopes the graduation numbers will continue to climb.
I would say there is still room for improvement. Im hoping that going forward, as the district progresses, that will continue to happen, he said.
In Massena, graduation rates decreased slightly between the cohort classes of 2008 and 2007, from 77.2 percent in 2007 to 72.3 percent in 2008. The cohort class of 2007 had 232 students, while the cohort class of 2008 had 231 students.
However, dropout rates also decreased slightly, from 16.8 percent in the Cohort class of 2007 to 16 percent in the Cohort class of 2008.
The cohort class of 2008 had 23.8 percent graduate with a Regents diploma with advanced designation, 45.9 percent graduate with a Regents diploma without advanced designation, 2.6 percent graduate with a local diploma and 2.2 percent graduate with an IEP diploma, while 9.1 percent were still enrolled after four years and 0.4 percent transferred to a GED preparation program.
The cohort class of 2007 had 25 percent who graduated with a Regents diploma with advanced designation, 46.6 percent who graduated with a Regents diploma without advanced designation, 5.6 percent who graduated with a local diploma, 0.9 percent who graduated with an IEP diploma, 2.6 percent who were still enrolled and 2.6 percent who transferred to a GED preparation program.
Norwood-Norfolk Central School also saw a jump in their graduation rate, from 74.4 percent in the 86 members of the cohort class of 2007 to 80.4 percent in the 92 members of the cohort class of 2008. Dropout rates also decreased significantly, from 20.9 percent in the Cohort class of 2007 to 9.8 percent in the cohort class of 2008.
The cohort class of 2007 had 31.4 percent graduate with a Regents diploma with advanced designation, 32.6 percent graduate a Regents diploma without advanced designation, 10.5 percent graduate with a local diploma and 3.5 percent graduate with an IEP diploma. The class had 1.2 percent who were still enrolled and none who transferred to a GED preparation program.
A year later, 29.3 percent graduated with a Regents diploma with advanced designation, 45.7 graduated with a Regents diploma without advanced designation, 6.5 percent graduated with a local diploma and 1.1 percent graduated with an IEP diploma. The class also had 6.5 percent who were still enrolled and 1.1 percent who transferred to a GED preparation program.
Reporters Reena Singh and Bob Beckstead contributed to this report.