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Public school students in Rochester and across New York are graduating at higher rates

The Rochester City School District’s high school graduation rate last year increased slightly, reflecting a statewide trend.

State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa said one factor may be that the graduation requirements changed: Tests that were previously required were canceled because of the COVID-19 health crisis.

“The pandemic made it necessary to temporarily change Regents exam requirements. This change affected this year's graduation rates. But we cannot say to what extent,” she said. “Even with this trend, we know more work needs to be done to further improve outcomes for students.”

The Rochester district’s graduation rate was just over 71%, 3.2 percentage points higher than the previous year.

Graduation rates for RCSD students who are considered economically disadvantaged saw the sharpest increase in the district, rising 3.6 percentage points to 69.2%.

Just over half of students with disabilities as well as students who are English Language Learners graduated last year.

“While we need to increase our graduation rate far beyond 71 percent, we are encouraged that our District is continuing on the right trajectory to graduate more students,” Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said in a statement. “This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our students, families, staff, teachers, and administrators.”

Board of Education President Cynthia Elliott said the district is getting closer to what she would like to see: a 100% graduation rate.

“I want to thank the staff for their dedication to ensuring our students graduate in spite of all of the challenges they faced while learning from home and then transitioning back into the classroom,” Elliott said in a statement.

“Congratulations to our students who demonstrated that anything is possible when you set your mind to excellence and achievement.”

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.