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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 25 percentage points since 2008. In 2018, 45% of the 4-year-olds in the region were enrolled in prekindergarten, below the 52% statewide.
Just 44% of 3rd graders in our region passed the state’s reading test, linked to Common Core standards, below the state’s 52%. The passing rate was especially low in the City of Rochester at 18%, though the City has increased 8 percentage points since 2017 . Passing rates were higher on 3rd grade math: 49% in the region, compared to 55% 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 (48%) and Asian students (55%) than among Hispanic and African American students (at 20% and 17% respectively) in 2019. Similarly, only 22% of the region’s low-income students passed the 8th grade English exam, in comparison to 39% 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 2019, 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 2 points on math and were 1 point below on English in 2019. About 73% of students in our region passed the Common Core Regents math exam in 2019, and 83% passed the Common Core Regents English.
Our four-year high school graduation rate was above the statewide rate: 86% of regional students who began high school in 2015 graduated on time, compared to 83% of students statewide. In the City of Rochester, the rate was 63%. Given another year, more students made it through high school. The regional five-year rate for the Class of 2014 increased to 88% and Rochester’s five-year rate to 65%.
Disparities are also present in our region’s graduation rates by race/ethnicity, and are larger than at the state level. In our region, 72% of African American and 75% of Hispanic students graduated in four years, in comparison to 91% of white students and 92% of Asian students. At the state level, 75% of both Hispanic and 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 2018, our school districts spent over $22,700 per student, below the state rate of $25,800.
Of the adults in the region, 62% have attended at least some college, above state and national levels. While 33% 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 12% nationwide without a high school degree.
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