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Dropout rate is ‘misleading’ Watertown superintendent says


Watertown City School District Superintendent Terry N. Fralick says he believes the 61.4 percent graduation rate posted by the state Education Department this month for students who entered high school in 2007 is misleading.

During the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, he said that students who graduate after four years or earn a General Educational Development diploma are not included in the 2007 demographic cohort’s four-year rate. Rather, they are counted as dropouts against the district.

Watertown and Brasher Falls Central School District (61.1 percent) had the lowest graduation rates in the north country for the graduating class of 2011. Both were nearly as low as New York City (60.9 percent).

“There are 25 students in the GED program,” Mr. Fralick said. “Out of the 25 students, only four dropped out of the program.”

He also said four students who are considered dropouts recently graduated with a high school diploma after five years. According to the state, the students who graduated last weekend will be included in next year’s five-year rate for the 2007 cohort and ultimately will be considered graduates.

“There is one student who has gone through and is in her fifth year who is coming back for another year,” Mr. Fralick said. “I’m proud of these students, and we celebrate their successes.”

Many of the board members agreed with Mr. Fralick’s sentiments. Board member Peter E. Monaco said there were about 20 summer school graduates who earned their diploma last August but are not counted in the four-year graduation rate.

“My daughter missed an exam because she was in the hospital, and had to take her exam in August,” said board member Yvonne E. Gebo. “She was a high school honor student, a college honor student and a research assistant at Columbia University and is considered a dropout by our school.”

Students who graduate from summer school in August are recognized as graduates in the four-year August rate and ultimately are considered four-year graduates.

Mr. Fralick will be presenting more graduation information at next Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Because the district deals with transfers frequently, he is investigating the numbers to make sure none of the transfers are counted as dropouts. In September 2005, the district was reported by the state to have a 24 percent dropout rate, but the number improved after the district determined that some students were “miscoded” as dropouts when they actually transferred to another school district, which is common for military dependents.

“The good thing is that the kids in the cohort aren’t even aware of where they are in the numbers,” said board Vice President Cynthia H. Bufalini.

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