BPS grad rate up, but JP schools decline

The Boston Public Schools (BPS) graduation rate hit an “all-time high” last year, according to a BPS report. But Jamaica Plain’s high schools showed declines.

English High School on McBride Street graduated half of its four-year seniors in 2011, a 9.5 percent drop from the previous year.

Greater Egleston Community High School in Egleston Square graduated just over 30 percent of its seniors, a slight decline from 2010.

That contrasts with BPS’s overall graduation rate of 64.4 percent. Some schools in other neighborhoods had rates over 80 percent.

BPS spokesperson Matt Wilder noted that Greater Egleston serves a “vulnerable population of students,” including some who previously dropped out before returning to school. Low graduation rates are not a surprise in such populations.

English High is more surprising. The long-troubled school has an improving reputation under Headmaster Sito Narcisse, who arrived about two years ago. Wilder could not explain the declining graduation rate there and referred questions to Narcisse, who was not available for comment.

Wilder did note that year-to-year graduation rate comparisons are not exact, because school populations change. English High lost exactly 100 students between 2010 and 2011, Wilder said, adding that he does not know why the student population declined.

Some other BPS schools are graduation rate success stories—especially the Kennedy Academy for Health Careers at Northeastern University, which graduated 100 percent of its 2011 class. New Mission High School in Mission Hill had a graduation rate of nearly 88 percent.

The overall BPS rate of 64.4 percent is up 1.2 percent from 2010 and up 6 percent from 2007. Of the students who did not graduate in 2011, 17 percent stayed in school to finish up. The median graduation rate is just over 60 percent, by the Gazette’s calculation.

“This is positive news, and it shows that the quality of our schools is continuing to improve,” said Mayor Thomas Menino in a press release about the system-wide graduation rate increase. “We’re seeing more and more of our high schools outperform other districts across the state, indicating that our efforts are having a real impact.”

Those efforts include a variety of “credit recovery” programs, which give a second chance to students who failed or dropped out of classes.

Some credit recovery programs nationwide have been criticized as deliberately easy and intended to boost graduation rates more than education. Wilder said that BPS programs are not that kind and include a wide array of specialized classes and tutoring geared to individual students’ needs.

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