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Education is key to preparing children for success as adults and for ensuring the economic and civic vitality of our region. In this section, we examine measures of school readiness academic achievement and school environment. While students in the region are passing high school tests and graduating at rates comparable to New York State, they are under-performing the state in earlier grades on several assessments. And our region does not do as well as the state in successfully preparing low-income and students of colors to pass the exams.
The percentage of children attending pre-kindergarten in our region increased by 33 percentage points since 2001. In 2017, 44% of the 4-year-olds in the region were enrolled in prekindergarten, below the 52% statewide.
Just 43% of 3rd graders in our region passed the state’s reading test, linked to Common Core standards, below the state’s 51%. The passing rate was especially low in the City of Rochester at 17%, though the City increased by 7 percentage points from the previous year. Passing rates were higher on 3rd grade math: 48% in the region, compared to 54% statewide. In 8th grade math, our region had 45% of students pass either the 8th grade state test or a Regents math test, compared to 48% statewide.
Test scores were lower among low-income and minority children in our region, and outcomes for these groups were lower than at the state level. For example, on the state’s 8th grade English exam, passing rates were substantially higher among white (49%) and Asian students (62%) than among Hispanic and African American students (at 23% and 18% respectively) in 2018. Similarly, only 24% of the region’s low-income students passed the 8th grade English exam, in comparison to 41% of students overall. Educational research has established that family income and mother's level of education are two of the strongest factors associated with student performance. However, in 2018, performance for minority and low-income students was higher at the state level than it was in our region.
On the high school Regents exams required for graduation, students in the region outperformed the state by 3 points on math and were 1 point below on English in 2018. About 73% of students in our region passed the Common Core Regents math exam in 2018, and 78% passed the Common Core Regents English.
Our four-year high school graduation rate was slightly above the statewide rate: 85% of regional students who began high school in 2014 graduated on time, compared to 83% of students statewide. In the City of Rochester, the rate was 59%. Given another year, more students made it through high school. The regional five-year rate for the Class of 2013 increased to 87% and Rochester’s five-year rate to 62%.
Disparities are also present in our region’s graduation rates by race/ethnicity, and are larger than at the state level. In our region, 71% of African American and Hispanic students graduated in four years, in comparison to 91% of white students and 88% of Asian students. At the state level, 73% of Hispanic and 74% of African American students graduated in four years, compared to 90% of both white and Asian students.
Spending per student by school districts in our region increased 50% since 2000, even after adjusting for inflation. In 2017, our school districts spent over $22,200 per student, below the state rate of $24,700.
Of the adults in the region, 62% have attended at least some college, above state and national levels. While 32% of the region’s adults have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, 10% have not obtained a high school degree. This compares to 14% of adults statewide and 13% nationwide without a high school degree.
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