PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island has improved its four-year graduation rate by 15 percentage points in a decade, but many Hispanic and African-American students living in lower-income families are not experiencing the same success as their Asian and white, higher-income counterparts, according to R.I. KIDS COUNT’s new report released Monday.
In prepared remarks, Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of R.I. KIDS COUNT, called the variance in graduation rates “unacceptably wide achievement gaps” and prioritized closing them by focusing on better preparing and connecting students will colleges and career opportunities.
The statewide four-year high school graduation rate increased to 85 percent in 2016 from 70 percent in 2007, according to the report, but an individual’s ability to graduate within that timeframe is greatly impacted by their family’s income, race and ethnicity, the report said.
KIDS COUNT analyzed 2016 R.I. Department of Education findings and reported a 14 percentage point difference between lower-income students graduating in four years (79 percent) and higher-income students (93 percent).
Last year, 92 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of African-American students, 79 percent of Hispanic students and 78 percent of Native American students in Rhode Island graduated in four years.
Over the past 10 years the largest increases in four-year high school graduation rates were seen in Pawtucket (37 percentage points), Central Falls (26 percentage points), Johnston (26 percentage points) and Newport (25 percentage points).
In its report, R.I. KIDS COUNT identified the following four student-centered learning principles specifically for high school-aged students, to help them stay engaged in the classroom and interested in the subject matter:
Learning that is personalized;
Learning that is competency-based;
Learning that happens anytime, anywhere; and
Learning that allows students to take ownership.
Suggestions for increasing four-year high school graduation rates begin at a young age with R.I. KIDS COUNT prioritizing a student’s ability to read by grade three, reducing chronic absences throughout a child’s school lifetime and offering individualized support in the transition from middle to high school.
“The path towards graduation is not always linear,” said Victor Capellan, superintendent of Central Fall Schools, in a statement.
“For some students, it is a journey that requires extra time, additional resources, resilience, and determination — but it is doable and worth every step.”