Efforts to close achievement gap at Buffalo Public Schools

Significant disparity between white students and black/Hispanic students

Mike Baggerman
January 20, 2020 - 3:00 am

McKinley High School. January 14, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - The graduation rate at Buffalo Public Schools remained flat according to the latest information released by the New York State Education Department.

VIEW: NYSED numbers on graduation rates

The information released last week showed that Buffalo had a graduation rate of 64.7 percent, less than half a percentage point higher compared to where it was a year before. Statewide, the graduation rate was 83.4 percent.

Rates also improved for black and Hispanic students, students with disabilities, and for English language learning students. The state said that Buffalo - compared to schools in New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers - had the highest achievement gap, or disparity in academic performance, among both Black (12.3%) and Hispanic (16.5%) students when compared to their white peers.

"You have to realize that in Buffalo we have like 70 different languages spoken," Buffalo Teacher's Federation President Phil Rumore said. "I don't know how that compares to any of the other school districts but I don't know of any districts that has that many different languages. You have to dig into the data and find out why (there's such a gap). Is it because we're testing students...that haven't been in school? We have to work together to improve it."

A phone call to Buffalo School Board President Sharon Belton Cottman was not returned. Fellow board member Larry Scott said the district has an initiative that teaches culturally relevant material for students of color in the classrooms.

"We've got over seven innovative high schools," Scott said. "For the first time coming in 2020, we'll have the first class of those five innovative high schools graduating. In addition, we have My Brother's Keeper, which focuses on our males of color who are at risk. It provides programming and support for them to be more successful in the classroom and beyond with their careers and post-high school education."

Scott said there are also plans to advance exposure to advance placement courses. He said there's 80 percent more black students who are participating in an AP class and a 184 percent increase in exposure for students who are Hispanic.

The district said they will continue to address the achievement gap with a broad array of programs designed to keep students motivated and focused, including leveraging the instructional priorities in literacy and mathematics and emphasize providing students with opportunities to explain their thinking and spend more time working independently on rigorous curricula.

Buffalo Public Schools saw a notable decrease in the number of students with disabilities who dropped out of college (2.8 percent).

"I am disappointed that our graduation rate did not rise more significantly in 2019," Superintendent Kriner Cash said. "With 78 percent of our schools in good standing, I know we have the strong leadership, hard-working staff, dedicated parents, and talented students to have done so. I fully expect that we will meet our 4-year graduation rate goal of 70 percent with out class of 2020. With the comprehensive array of supports provided to all of our students by the Education Bargain, Say Yes Buffalo, and with five of our new innovative high schools graduating their first classes this June, I am confident we will get there this year and lead the state in graduation rate improvements."

Seven of the 17 high schools had graduation rates of 80 percent or better.

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