Puerto Rican absences and graduation rates a crisis in Buffalo Schools
Buffalo News reported yesterday that “among elementary schools Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy had the severest attendance problem. There, 50 percent of students missed 18 days or more. That includes 19 percent of students who missed more than seven full weeks of school.”
While Latino four-year graduation rates just as dismal the Education Zone story in Buffalo News reported in January 2011, “Two years ago, 50 percent of black students in Buffalo graduated in four years, compared to 60 percent of white students.The most recent data — for the Class of 2010 — shows that 45 percent of black students in Buffalo graduated in four years, compared to 58 percent of white students.”
While the Latino four-year graduation rate two years ago in the Buffalo Public Schools rose slightly to 43%, it declined to the 2008 graduation levels of 40% in 2010. A plethora of reports in the media about the Schott Foundation study showing the black male four-year graduation rates is 25% in Buffalo schools appeared in the nation, but little reported about the 21% graduation rate of English Language Learners (ELL) as well in the Buffalo Schools at an even lower level of 21%.
In fact, one of the goals the Buffalo Board of Education expects the Superintendent of Schools James A. Williams to implement after he announced his retirement three weeks ago on June 2, is to do something about the low black male graduation rates, but absent from their expectation are similar goals and strategies for the ELL population in the district just as dismal even worse or the overall four-year graduation rates of Latinos.
And the consultant Hedy Chang the Buffalo Schools officials hired in 2010 to study the attendance data in 2010-2011 showed Latinos have the highest levels of chronic and severe absences in the district, ranging from 50% in the elementary, 50% in the middle school to nearly 70% in the high schools.
The statistics from this study also corroborated what the Council on Great City Schools report (CGCS) showed about the academic achievement of English Language learners in the Buffalo Public Schools highlighted last year that the graduation rate of the English Language Learners at 21% is the lowest in the New York possibly may be related to their high absences from high school at nearly 55% overall with 34% and 21% chronic and severe rates.
The CGCS Report last May 2010 showed: ”ELLs in Buffalo have less than half the graduation rate of ELLs in New York State: 21 vs 55 percent.” And ” the district appears to have no pathway toward graduation for ELLs who enter the system in ninth grade or afterwards.”
So having the worst school attendance rates together with the lowest four-year graduation rates in the Buffalo Public Schools coupled with the lowest English Language Learner rates in New York State, the Puerto Rican community and other similarly situated Latinos in the City of Buffalo will continue to make up an increasing high number of house-holds dependent on the Erie County Department of Social Services for economic support, along with higher unemployment and poverty rates than the rest of the City of Buffalo, including a community plagued by youth violence, crime and incarceration. And this is happening at a time the demographics of the Latino population in Erie County and the City of Buffalo is larger than 10 years ago according to the most recent U.S. Census.
Therefore, the crises calls for drastic measures implemented in the Buffalo Public Schools in all domains from the leadership in central office to the administrators appointed leaders to the schools Puerto Rican students concentrated, especially at the Bilingual School #33 soon to be under a new educational partnership organizations (EPO) model, along with Riverside High School, Lafayette High School and others designated persistently lowest achieving in the district.
Also, it is important for the Puerto Rican community to get involved and to stay informed about what happens at the other schools, including Herman Badillo Community School #76, D’Youville Porter Campus School #3, Dr. Antonia Pantoja Community School#18, Frank Sedita Academy#30, Native American Magnet#19 , and West Hertel Academy#94 all cited for attendance problems.