BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- New York's high school graduation rate continues to inch upward, but too few of the students earning diplomas are ready for college and careers, state education officials said Monday.
About three out of four students, 74 percent, who entered high school in 2007 graduated after four years, in June 2011, according to data released by the Education Department. That was slightly better than the 73.4 percent graduation rate for the class before it.
Nevertheless, only about a third of the students in the statewide Class of 2011 met thresholds considered to be measures of college and career readiness.
Those so-called "aspirational performance measures" include earning an advanced Regents diploma, which 30.6 percent of the Class of 2011 achieved, and scoring at least 75 on the Regents English exam and 80 on the Regents math exam, which 34.7 percent of students accomplished.
"New York's overall graduation rate has improved, but nearly a quarter of our students still don't graduate after four years," Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said, "and too many of those students who do graduate aren't ready for college and careers."
Common Core standards
The state's shift in the next school year to nationally accepted Common Core standards, along with greater emphasis on teacher effectiveness and the lowest-performing schools, are meant to raise the quality of a high school diploma, officials said. The Common Core standards set uniform benchmarks for what high school students should know at graduation to be prepared to continue their education or go to work.
"Our students are competing globally," Education Commissioner John King Jr. said. "That competition demands that we keep improving our graduation rates. But it also demands that we close the achievement gap and make sure students who do graduate are ready for college and careers."
The department's analysis of graduation rates also found that large gaps -- 27 percentage points -- continue to exist between the graduation rates of white students and their black and Hispanic classmates, even though minority graduation rates increased slightly, to about 58 percent, among students who entered high school in 2007.
Meanwhile, students in the Big Five Districts of Buffalo, Syracuse, Yonkers, New York City and Rochester again graduated at rates lower than the statewide average, though students in Buffalo, Syracuse and Yonkers fared better than the classes before them while New York City and Rochester posted slight declines.
The Alliance for Quality Education said the state has until recently made greater strides toward improving the graduation rates, but that property tax limits and shifts in state aid have hampered progress.
"The recent policies coming out of Albany have eliminated sorely needed teaching and educator positions as well as stripped many classrooms of critical programs such as pre-k, tutoring, sports and college prep," said Nikki Jones, spokeswoman for the AQE, a school aid lobbying group funded by education foundations and teachers unions. "It's pertinent that Albany reevaluates its devastating policies such as the property tax cap and state aid cap to stop our public schools from continuing to move in the wrong direction."