Graduation rate in Salamanca holds steady at 84%

The overall graduation rate at Salamanca High School held steady at 84% this year, same as 2018. The district hit a recent low of 59% graduation rate in 2013.

SALAMANCA — The graduation rate for the Salamanca High School Class of 2019 was 84%, the same as last year after significant increases since 2013.

High School Principal Chris Siebert reported to the Board of Education Tuesday on the graduation rates in several demographics, which also showed a slight decrease in both advanced designation Regents diplomas and Native American graduates.

Before the two most recent classes had a graduating rate of 84%, 2017’s class was at 83, up drastically from 68% in 2016. The graduation rate hit a recent low of 59% for the Class of 2013.

Although things have improved, Siebert said there was some uncertainty with what the graduation rate would look like back in May because there were about a dozen seniors on the fence.

“I was thinking there were a number of those who weren’t going to make it,” he said. “I give the teachers a lot of credit along with the guidance counselors, parents and students because they all pulled together the last month.”

There were a couple of students in the library two days before graduation finishing up what they needed to do to be eligible for graduation, Siebert said.

“Everybody worked extremely hard to make sure we were able to stay where we are at 8%,” he added.

The graduation rate for Native American students in Salamanca took a small dip in 2019 going from 86% to 78%. In 2014, the Native student graduation rate was at a low of 42%. Native students account for about 33 percent of each class’s population.

“In reality, we’re talking about just a couple of students,” Siebert said. “Unfortunately, the two students who didn’t make it last year were Native students. We did get one of them through in August, and the other is currently getting his GED, so it isn’t holding anybody back.”

The percentage of students receiving a Regents diploma with advanced designation also took a small dip in 2019, going from 17% to 12 percent overall and from 19% to 3% in Native American students.

“I was anticipating we were going to be a little bit higher than what we were,” Siebert said. “Ultimately, you need to pass (the Regents in) two sciences, three maths, ELA, two histories and either a foreign language or a similar CTE endorsement through business classes.”

Siebert said the Algebra II Regents exam is one of the requirements that tend to hold students back from getting that advanced designation.

Additionally, only one Native American student received their advanced Regents diploma in 2019, something Siebert said “is not really acceptable.”

“I’ve already looked at the data this year,” he continued, “and we already have five that have either earned it or are on the cusp of earning it, so I anticipate that number jumping up.”

District Superintendent Robert Breidenstein said earning an advanced designation Regents diploma is not something a student could feasibly turn around their junior or senior year.

“This is eighth, ninth, tenth and all the way up,” he said. “This is a commitment to your academics.”

One factor Breidenstein said he’s seen as a trend in many districts is poor attendance being the difference between simply graduating and receiving that advanced designation.

“If we want to see this number increase, we have got to get the kids’ fannies in the seats in class every day,” he added.

Siebert also discussed the district’s summer school program, where there were 17 courses offered this year, including credit recovery, in-classroom and online courses.

“We were fortunate enough to have 44 students recover course credit for one course, 16 students recovered credit for two courses and three students recovered for three courses,” he explained.

In previous years, the school would offer two two-hour courses during the day, Siebert said, but this year they expanded it to three two-hour courses to offer more opportunities. Additionally, three students also earned course credit for Health in an accrual process.

“So ultimately it ended up being like 88 students earning some sort of credit toward their graduation requirements,” he said.

Regents exams are also offered at the end of the summer, and Siebert noted that 40 students earned passing scores on the 2019 August exams. Additionally, two seniors were able to meet their graduation requirements by passing Regents exams over the summer.

“Overall, from a summer school perspective, we feel it was successful,” he said. “The results this year mirror the ones from last year. As far as the numbers go, it’s pretty much identical, the number of students earning credit and number of Regents exams passed. I think any time we can give students that little extra opportunity or support that they need to meet those requirements to get closer to graduation, it’s super important.”

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)