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Graduation rate rises to 81 percent, English and math also improve

The city school district's graduation rate has improved and is now about 81 percent, while test scores in English Language Arts and math have also seen improvement over the last four years.

"We see in these reports some very encouraging progress, but we're still at a point where we want to continue to improve," said Michelle Bradley, assistant superintendent for learning and assessment.

Bradley presented the Student Achievement Report to the School Board last week.

The district's dropout rate has decreased from 12 percent a few years ago to 8 percent in the most recent estimate. The district has set a graduation rate goal of 80 percent per federal requirements.

Districts failing to meet their goal for two consecutive years will be labeled as "needs improvement," Bradley said, though what happens in that case is unclear while the federal government works on education reform.

The state will apply to the U.S. Department of Education to use a five-year extended graduation rate, to include students who take an extra year to graduate.

There will be new options to help students reach graduation, including independent study.

"Independent study would allow a student to pursue more in-depth study -- for up to three credits," Bradley said.

She cited a recent national report, Diplomas Count 2010, released June 10 by Education Week, that shows the national graduation rate for 2007 was 68.8 percent, and that the graduation rate has been falling for the last two years.

Across the nation, "about 11,000 fewer students earned diplomas in the class of 2007," Bradley said.

The Lockport district has seen improvement in English Language Arts, with increases in third, fourth and fifth grade test scores, as well as in middle school.

"We continue to outperform state levels," Bradley said. Over four years, passing grades on the ELA tests in seventh grade have risen from 59 percent to 87 percent.

Similar improvements are seen in math scores, with an increase in eighth grade from 69 percent proficiency to 85 percent. There was a small decrease in science scores among eighth graders, from 90 percent last year to 85 percent this year, but Bradley said preliminary results from this year's test show proficiency rates back at about 90 percent.

Bradley said the district will continue to focus on literacy, all students reading on grade level by the end of second grade, and students with disabilities.

"That continues to be a challenging population," she said, "but we are making progress."

In today's Niagara Weekend: Class of 2010 graduates also have something to boast about.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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