Connecticut Graduation Rate At All-Time High, Yet Higher Standards Continue To Be Delayed

Apr 9, 2018

Connecticut's graduation rate is now the highest on record, state officials said Monday. Last year, 87.9 percent of high school seniors graduated. That's about five points higher than the national average. The graduation rate gap between students of color and white students also shrank.

The announcement was made at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, which has seen a sharp rise in graduates. 

"I've worked in three states, this is my third high school that I've worked in," said Wilbur Cross Principal Edith Johnson. "And when I tell you the teachers are committed to our students -- we have teachers who get here at six o'clock in the morning and don't leave until six, seven, eight, nine o'clock at night."

But a lot has been said about the quality of a high school diploma. In a recent lawsuit over state-funding, teachers and parents claimed that illiterate students could get a diploma in Connecticut.

Governor Dannel Malloy said the education reform that his administration spearheaded in 2012 put a premium on quality, and not just increasing numbers.

"We made it very clear at the outset that we weren't simply looking for more graduates," Malloy said. "We were looking for more graduates with a diploma that represented real accomplishments."

Over the last two years, lawmakers have delayed implementing tougher gradation standards. Legislation passed last year also softened some requirements, which go into effect for the class of 2023.

There's also a question of remediation in college. Studies have shown that up to 70 percent of students enrolling in two-year schools have had to take remedial classes after earning a high school diploma. The latest data from Connecticut looked at the class of 2011 over a six-year period. Over 46 percent of high school graduates from that year needed some remediation. That is slight improvement compared to the remedial needs of the class of 2010.

However, students from some districts, like Stamford and Hartford, needed more remediation than the previous graduating class. Other districts, such as Bridgeport and New Haven, saw significantly fewer students needing remediation, according to state data.