File photo: Diane Tucci

Riverhead High School’s four-year graduation rate dropped slightly in 2022 to 81%, below the 82% graduation rate reported in 2021, but above the 79% graduation rate recorded in 2020, according to data reported today by the New York State Education Department.

The graduation rate remains below the state average of 87% and the school’s 11% dropout rate is more than double the state average of 5%.

NYSED has yet to disclose the graduation rate data for the whole of Suffolk County. Suffolk County’s four-year graduation rate was 91% in 2021.

There were 487 students in the 2018 cohort — the group of students who entered as freshman in high school in 2018, and whose graduation rate the 2022’s four-year measure was based on. Enrollment of students in the cohort was up slightly from the 2017 cohort, the group that the 2021 four-year graduation rate was based on.

The most significant jump in graduation performance between the last two years was with English language learners, a demographic group that has quadrupled in size throughout the last six school years, and now makes up more than a quarter of students in the 2018 cohort. The graduation rate for those students jumped from 49% in 2021 to 59% in 2022. 

However, that group’s dropout rate remained higher than almost every demographic group at 28%, and only one student who is an English language learner received an advanced regents diploma.

The data also paints a picture of significant gaps in graduation rates between racial and economic demographics, as well as between students who have learning disabilities and those who don’t. 

Latino students, who make up 53% of the 2018 cohort, had the lowest graduation rate of any racial group at 70%, although the graduation rate increased slightly from the 68% graduation rate recorded last year. The group also had the highest dropout rate of any racial demographic last year at 18%.

Black students, which make up 8% of the cohort, graduated at a rate of 78%, up from 76% in 2021. Black students had a 13% dropout rate last year. White students, which make up 36.55% of the cohort, graduated at a rate of 99% compared to 97% in 2021. White students had a 1% dropout rate last year.

Students who were economically disadvantaged — 55.6% of the total student population — had a 76% graduation rate, compared to a graduation rate of 88% for other students. Only 19% of economically disadvantaged students received an advanced regents diploma, while 52% of graduates who were not economically disadvantaged received an advanced diploma. 

Economically disadvantaged students were also more likely to dropout:13% of economically disadvantaged students dropped out, compared to the 8% of other students.

General education students, which make up 88% of the 2018 cohort, had a graduation rate of 83%. Students with disabilities, who make up the rest of the cohort, had a 67% graduation rate, which was an improvement over the 63% graduation rate for the group in 2021. Students with disabilities were also more likely to drop out of school at 17%, compared to a 10% rate for the rest of students.

Female students have historically had higher graduation rates than male students, a trend that continued in the 2018 cohort. Female students had a graduation rate of 81% in 2022, higher than the 78% recorded for male students. Female students also outperformed male students in 2022 when it came to obtaining advanced regents diplomas — 40% compared to 29%. 

Overall, students who obtained a regents diploma with advanced designation decreased slightly to 34% compared to the 35% reported in 2021. 43% of the cohort received a regents diploma, while 3% of the cohort received a local diploma.

The school’s 2022 cohort had an 11% dropout rate, a slight decrease from the 12% dropout rate from the 207 cohort of students. The state average dropout rate for the 2022 cohort was 5%.

In an email requesting comment on the data, high school principal Sean O’Hara said: “There have been significant increases in performance within subgroups, and we are hopeful that current initiatives such as our Blue Waves Academy, North Star Academy, In-School Credit Recovery options and our upcoming Evening Program will lead to continued improvement.”

The high school is starting a night school program this month in the hopes of enticing students who have dropped out to return to complete their degrees. The school is holding an informational session at the high school for the program on the evening of Feb. 6.

The school also launched an alternative high school program this year with the goal of bringing students falling behind on credits back on track to graduate.

The state data set also included the completed data set for the 2016 cohort, which was expected to graduate in 2020. 81% of the cohort ended up graduating, a 2% increase from the four-year graduation rate numbers reported for the cohort.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: