BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Between 2011 and 2012, the graduation rate in Buffalo's high schools dropped dramatically, by seven percent, putting the graduation rate at less than 50 percent. Now parents want to know why the district had such a steep drop in just a year's time and what the plan is for improvement.
Superintendent Dr. Pemal Brown has said in the past, she's optimistic the graduation rate will be 80 percent by 2018. Scenes of students succeeding hang outside Dr. Brown's City Hall office. But fact trumps facade, as less than half of all city students graduated last year.
"It's certainly not where we want to be or where we think we should be or need to be for students," Dr. Brown said.
The graudation rate for 2010-2011 was 54 percent and in just a year it lowered to 47 percent, a seven percent drop. You can find more information in New York State's full report, Buffalo starts on page 245.
Dr. Brown said, "I view that as a starting point. That's the baseline."
The superintendent is quick to point out these lackluster graduation rates are from last year and do not reflect her efforts, considering she got her job last summer. Still, she admits there are failures among the schools, but adds says there have been improvements made.
To further right the wrongs, Dr. Brown says changes are being made to increase professional development, focusing more on students' needs and intervening when students are in educational trouble. The superintendent says summer school programs and freshmen academies will help students "envision" success. And Dr. Brown says school principals will be held more accountable.
"We are going to continue to implement these strategies to promote an increase in graduation. It has to be our expectation that those graduation rates improve," Dr. Brown said. "We're putting the things into place that should be required in order for those graduation rates to improve."
But the fact remains most are considered failing schools. Newely elected school board member Carl Paladino is making it his mission to turn things around, and he'd like to start by ousting Dr. Brown.
"She hasn't got a clue what she's doing. And if you can't have a good leader than any programs you bring up there are not going to be implemented," Paladino said. "She never turned a school around. She never ran a school system before. She was never a superintendent of schools before. Never."
Shaday Smalls has a son enrolled in a city school. She was speechless hearing about this drastic drop.
"It is frustrating, because you don't want your kid to fall into the same statistic as other kids," Smalls said. "I say both teachers and parents both [are responsible] because a lot of teachers don't take action the way they should in the school system."
Dr. Brown put out a message Tuesday to parents outside the city who have moved because of the failing school system. She's inviting those parents to "come visit our schools."
"Even those schools that you refer to as failing, if you really look at progress, and really look at a number of indicators, there is improvement in some of those schools and I think that improvement needs to be recognized," Dr. Brown said.
The superintendent stated she views a good school as one that continues to improve. And though Paladino is calling for her removal, Dr. Brown says she's staying put.
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