Graduation rates for the Class of 2022 on Long Island...

Graduation rates for the Class of 2022 on Long Island stood at 92.6%, just above the prior year, while statewide, rates ticked upward to 87% from 86.1%. Above, Brentwood High School students graduate in June 2017. Credit: James Carbone

The graduation rate for the Class of 2022 on Long Island was 92.6%, about the same as the prior year, though with marked gains in Hempstead and Wyandanch, state education officials reported Thursday.

Long Island's graduation rate continued to exceed the state average. Statewide, the proportion of seniors earning diplomas ticked upward to 87% from 86.1%, according to the figures.

A year ago, Long Island's graduation rate for the Class of 2021 was 92.2%.

"New York's graduation rate continues its steady, upward trend," said state Education Department spokeswoman Emily DeSantis. "Despite the sustained trajectory, additional work must be done to improve outcomes for all students, especially our most vulnerable populations."

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The graduation rate for the Class of 2022 on Long Island was 92.6%, about the same as the prior year.
  • There were marked gains in the graduation rates in Hempstead and Wyandanch, two districts under state monitorship.
  • Long Island's graduation rate continued to exceed the state average, which ticked upward to 87% from 86.1%, according to the figures.

Some educators, however, say graduation rates in recent years have increased because, in part, the state has canceled numerous Regents exams during the pandemic.

"Students have been graduating without Regents diplomas since the pandemic due to waivers," said Alan Singer, a Hofstra University professor of education. Consequently, "some districts had an increase in graduation rates."

In Nassau County, the percentage of graduates remained relatively steady, at 94.3%, up a tick from 93.8% the prior year, the figures said. The picture was similar in Suffolk, with graduations rising a bit to 91.2% from 90.8%, the figures showed.

Gains in Hempstead, Wyandanch

Certain districts, however, saw significant gains last school year, including Hempstead, rising to 83% from 71.5%, the figures said.

"We're very proud of the work that staff and students have done and we're happy we're moving in the right direction," said Hempstead High School Principal Stephen Strachan.

He said he was particularly impressed considering the 6,500-student district, where graduation rates once fell below 50%, has numerous migrants, and that students and staff had to overcome learning challenges brought on by school closures related to the pandemic.

He pointed to social and emotional supports that helped students through the pandemic.

"We've worked on meeting students where they are and getting them to the finish line," he said.

Wyandanch also saw a significant bump, to 73% from 66.1%, the figures showed.

Both Hempstead and Wyandanch districts remain under state-appointed monitorship.

Christine Jordan, Wyandanch's assistant to the superintendent for administrative accountability, acknowledged that the absence of Regents exams helped increase the graduation rates. But she said the district also took steps to help students graduate.

"It certainly didn't hurt," Jordan said. "But the Regents is only one part of the equation."

For example, Jordan said that three years ago the district added a ninth period, which has helped students amass the credits they need to graduate. Students use the period to retake a class or add another class to their schedule, she said. 

Roger Tilles, Long Island's representative on the state Board of Regents, praised the work of the monitors working with Hempstead and Wyandanch.

"Our monitors have helped the districts with their finances and overall management," Tilles said. Regarding the two districts, he said, "They're improving and getting their act together." 

The Regents/COVID factor

Since the start of the pandemic, students have been granted widespread exemptions from Regents exams. In 2022, the state Education Department canceled the June Regents exam in U.S. History & Government. Numerous other Regents exams were canceled during the prior years of the pandemic.

“While the increase in graduation rates for the Class of 2022 appears to be good news, we remain concerned about whether it is an accurate reflection of how well students are prepared for the future," said Jeff Smink, deputy director of The Education Trust-New York, an education policy and advocacy organization. 

Smink said that too many New York students are graduating from high school only to find they need to take noncredit remedial courses in college, or are unable to pass required entry-level workforce exams.

Tilles said several Island school districts receive numerous immigrant students, some who are unaccompanied minors, who barely know English and who do not graduate.

"They are counted in the graduation rates. It holds the graduation rates down," Tilles said. "That's unfair. I'm trying to have the Regents look at this."

The percentage of Island students who received advanced Regents diplomas, meaning they completed upper-level courses such as physics, inched upward, to 62% in 2022, from 61.5% in 2021, according to the state figures. Statewide, 41.8% of graduates received the advanced diplomas. 

Graduation rates are a data point that helps state educators identify which districts and schools need support, DeSantis said. Education officials have pointed to broad differences in statewide graduation rates by race and ethnicity. In 2022, 91% of white students graduated, while 82% of Black students and 81% of Hispanic students received diplomas.

"The Department remains committed to removing barriers to opportunity for students and providing a foundation for educational excellence and equity to serve New York’s diverse student population," DeSantis said.

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