Lawrence High School achieves 90 percent graduation rating


For the first time since 2008, Lawrence High School attained a 90 percent graduation rate in 2021-22, three points higher than the state average, according to a state education department report.

The report documents a range of data, including the number of students in schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, average class sizes and “accountability status,” an evaluation of school performance based on student performance.

“The graduation rate does show that our students, even with the challenges posed by the pandemic and remote learning, were dedicated to their studies and were able to come through these unprecedented times successfully,” Lawrence superintendent Ann Pedersen said in a news release. “We are immensely proud of every one of our graduates, and we are ready to assist those needing additional time and help to ensure that every student is given every opportunity to succeed and move on successfully to the next stage of their lives.”

In recent years, the district’s graduation rate has consistently ranged in the 80s.

The enrollment in Lawrence schools is 61 percent Hispanic/Latino, 20 percent African-American, 15 percent white and 4 percent Asian. Lawrence High Principal Jennifer Lagnado Papp has faced the ongoing challenge of how to work with students who need academic help outside school, specifically those who are economically disadvantaged.

“It’s not a matter of (the) ethnic breakdown of our student body,” Papp wrote in an email. “A true indicator of the challenges LHS faces is our economically disadvantaged subgroup.”

Those students take part in economic assistance programs such as free and reduced lunch programs. Most have limited academic resources at home, so the district has incorporated programs like the Weekend Academy, which was created in 1999 and focuses on state Regents exam subjects including math, English, science and history.

According to the education department report, 88 percent of Lawrence seniors who were categorized as economically disadvantaged graduated last June.

“In an effort to continue this pattern of success, we are monitoring student attendance as it relates to their academic growth,” Papp wrote. “We have set a school-wide academic growth goal and are monitoring attendance daily.”

“Passport for Good,” a web-based platform designed to track student activities and career development at the high school, and in turn to increase student engagement, is expected to start this spring.

Lawrence Middle School Principal Willis Perry emphasized that students’ preparation for high school starts with offering high school-level courses in his building.

“A big factor is our middle school students in eighth grade are taking high school-credit courses,” Perry said. “Prior to ever walking into the high school, they’ve already had high school credits.”

For her part, Gov. Kathy Hochul has stressed the importance of students’ mental health, and noted that schools typically provide them with little to no mental health support. The issue was highlighted when in-person teaching resumed as the coronavirus pandemic eased.

Studies have shown that a focus on maintaining students’ mental health can lead to their success in school and later life. In 2021, Lawrence collaborated with Northwell Health’s Behavioral Health Center, in Rockville Centre, to help students with mental health challenges.

In the middle school, social workers and psychologists are available on-site, and regularly meet with students to help ease the transition from middle to high school.

“We’re … providing them the additional help and mental help they might need,” Perry said, “to get over these tough moments.”

Providing the tools to help students grow in school, and to prepare them for the world beyond high school, is described by district officials as a team effort. “We are so proud of our students’ academic accomplishments and the growth they have shown,” Papp said. “Having a 90 percent graduation rate is a testament to our students’ hard work that takes place in our classrooms each day.”