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Buffalo Public Schools graduation rates continue to stir serious concerns, with the latest graduation data released by the state showing the city trailing behind every other major city school district in New York State except for one.

According to the 2012 data released by the state Education Department on Monday, high schools in Erie and Niagara counties generally showed either modest losses or positive gains outside the City of Buffalo.

Within the city is another story entirely. No longer do more than half of Buffalo’s students graduate from high school within four years. The Buffalo graduation rate was 47 percent, compared with 54 percent in 2011.

The Rochester school district did even more poorly, with only 43 percent of students graduating within four years.

Buffalo, however, showed the sharpest decline among the five largest school districts in the state, causing the Education Department to red-flag the city in its statewide news release.

“Graduation rates for four of the Big 5 school districts remained relatively stable,” the release stated. “However, Buffalo’s graduation rate dropped by more than 7 percentage points.”

The other Big 5 schools ranked include Yonkers, with a graduation rate of 66 percent; New York City, with 60 percent; and Syracuse, with 48 percent.

Buffalo’s 2012 graduation rate erases the gains the district made in 2011 and puts the city school district back at roughly the same graduation level it had in 2010.

The picture is bleaker when looking at the school-by-school breakdowns. Among the 20 city public and charter high schools, only four showed any gains, while nine showed losses of 5 percentage points or more compared with 2011’s rates.

Since 2010, six of the city schools have seen double-digit declines in graduation rates. Burgard Vocational High School showed the single most alarming drop – from half of its students graduating in 2010 to only a fourth – 24 percent – graduating in 2012.

East, Bennett, Riverside and Lafayette high schools also showed a troubling pattern of two-year stagnation or decline, with less than a third of students graduating.

Some schools both in and out of the city showed marked improvement.

Buffalo’s Emerson School of Hospitality showed a 15 percent year-over-year gain in its graduation rates, from 66 percent in 2011 to 81 percent in 2012.

In surrounding school districts, Depew, Lake Shore, North Collins and Frontier high schools made notable one- and two-year gains.

Among the largest suburban school districts, the total district graduation rate was 92 percent in Williamsville, 81 percent in Kenmore-Tonawanda and 85 percent in West Seneca.

In Niagara County, graduation rates ranged from 70 percent at Niagara Falls High School to 97 percent at Lewiston-Porter.

The overall statewide graduation rate “remained stable at 74 percent despite increased rigor required for graduation phased in over the past four years,” according to the announcement by Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr.

Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Pamela C. Brown declined an interview request about the student graduation rates report, which reflect a period before her arrival. In a statement, however, she said she’s instituted a number of strategies designed to bring city graduation rates up to 80 percent by 2018.

Those strategies include more collaboration and communication with the Say Yes Buffalo program, more professional development for staff, more early intervention through the use of student data, and more after-school and summer school programs to help struggling students.

“With these key strategies in place, we are very optimistic that increased graduation rates will follow,” she stated. “As always, it is our goal to provide a world-class education for every child.”

For more information, read the School Zone blog at News Staff Reporter Gene Warner contributed to this story. email: