Albion school district has been overcoming high poverty rates

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 March 2016 at 12:00 am

District has high graduation, Advanced Regents rates

ALBION – In the Albion school district, 63 percent of the 1,874 students are eligible for free or reduce lunch. That puts Albion among the 100 poorest school districts in the state.

Poorer school districts tend to have lower graduation rates, and lower percentages of students earning Advanced Regents diplomas.

Albion, despite its high poverty rate, is attaining academic success close to the levels of the 100 wealthiest school districts, Albion school leaders said on Monday during the monthly Board of Education meeting.

“This speaks to our students, our parents and our staff and the hard work they do everyday,” said Michael Bonnewell, school district superintendent. “It’s an incredible number that we as a community should be very proud of.”

The 100 poorest school districts have a graduation rate of 66 percent. That’s the percentage of students who graduate with their freshman cohort four years later. In the 100 wealthiest districts, the graduation rate is 92 percent. Albion, at 90 percent, nearly matches the wealthiest schools’ grad rate.

In terms of Advanced Regents, 18 percent of the graduates in the poorest schools earn the advanced diplomas, while 49 percent of the graduates in the wealthiest districts are at the level. In Albion, 44 percent of grads earn the advanced levels.

Albion does it despite being underfunded by the state of New York by about $3.5 million a year, said Shawn Liddle, the district’s assistant superintendent of business.

He used a formula from the Alliance for Quality Education to show how the state has been short-changing Albion and many other poorer school districts with Foundation Aid.

Liddle said the district has a culture that pushes student achievement.

“We’re fortunate to have the staff, the community and the students that we have who rise above it,” Liddle said about the poverty in the community.

Albion last year was recognized as one of 17 school districts in the country where students reach their potential despite issues with poverty and other challenges.

The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado recognized Albion with a “School of Opportunity” designation. These outstanding schools demonstrate a range of practices that ensure that all students have rich opportunities to succeed, the center said in a news release last May.

For more on the “School of Opportunity,” click here.