In New York State, 36 Percent of ELLs Graduate in Four Years

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 22, 2009 1 min read
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For the first time in three years, the graduation rate for English-language learners in New York state has not declined over the previous year. Graduation rates for the state released today show that 35.7 percent of ELLs who started school in New York state in 9th grade graduated after four years, up from 27.3 percent the previous year. (Hat tip to GothamSchools.) That contrasts with a graduation rate of 70.9 percent for all students. The data is for students in the class of 2008.

The average graduation rate for all students in the class of 2006 in the nation was 69.2 percent, according to Diplomas Count, which was published by Education Week this month. New York state’s rate for the class of 2006 was 68.3 percent, or about the same as the national average, according to Diplomas Count (page 28 of the report).

A slide in the New York state education commissioner’s Power Point presentation on the rates calls the graduation rates for ELLs “low.” After four years, 38.8 percent of ELLs in the 2004 cohort of students were still enrolled in school, but 22.2 percent had dropped out (slide 25). A small percentage of ELLs transferred to General Educational Development certificate programs, and a small proportion had individualized education programs.

The commissioner’s presentation shows that the graduation rate for ELLs still isn’t very impressive even if those who graduate after a fifth or sixth year in high school are counted in the mix (slide 26). In the cohort of 2003, 39.7 percent of ELLs graduated within five years. In the cohort of 2002, 42.2 percent of ELLs graduated within six years.

Sometimes school district officials argue that they aren’t getting proper credit for their good work if graduation rates don’t take into consideration that some students, including ELLs, take a fifth or sixth year of high school to meet graduation requirements.

If the experience in other states is similar to that in New York, counting in the graduation rate ELLs who finish high school after a fith or sixth year may not make a huge difference.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.