HARTFORD -- Connecticut students aren't scoring as well as they used to, but statewide, more of them are graduating on time.
So say new figures out from the state that show a greater percentage of the Class of 2012 collected a diploma in four years than did the Class of 2011.
The 84.8 percent graduation rate -- 2.1 percentage points higher than the year before -- was trumpeted last Wednesday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at the annual Back to School meeting for Connecticut's public school superintendents, but back in his hometown of Stamford only one of the city's three high schools saw graduation rates improve.
The Academy of Information Technology and Engineering, a magnet school that includes students from outside of Stamford increased its overall graduation rate to 98.2 percent in the year-ended 2012. Graduation rates climbed for Hispanics, blacks, males and females. Asian students at AITE were the only ones that saw a dip in the graduation rate, falling to 93.3 percent.
Stamford High's graduation rate fell to 84.2 percent, with Asians, Blacks and males all seeing declines. However, Hispanic students graduating on time increased to 75.5 percent from 72 percent a year earlier.
Westhill High's graduation rate fell to 83 percent in 2012, with a drop in Hispanic graduates as a contributing factor.
The Hispanic graduation rate at Weshill fell to 72.9 percent from 79.4 percent. Graduation rates for Black, white and Asian students all increased at Westhill.
English Language Learners, those whose first language is other than English, continued to struggle at Westhill but saw improvement at Stamford High.
Stamford's Superintendent Winifred Hamilton did not immediately return requests for comment Wednesday.
Stamford is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly violating the civil rights of its ELL students. The Superintendent has said in previous interviews, the ELL population in the city has not improved like other populations in Stamford and more work has to be done on this front.
At Stamford High, 70.7 percent of the ELL students graduated, up slightly from 70.2 percent. Westhill's graduation rate for ELL students fell to 58.1 percent from 68.9 percent. AITE's ELL population was too small to report.
Despite Stamford's decreases, it is the third year in a row the state has seen graduation rates increase.
"There is no doubt that the goal of improving our public schools is one that will be won over the long term," Malloy told school chiefs meeting at the state Capitol. He called three consecutive years of increases in the graduation rate a great thing.
"This is proof that when we invest in our children and our teachers, we can and will achieve success," Malloy said.
The Norwalk School District saw a slight increase in overall graduation rates--84.9 percent graduated in 2012, up from 84.2 percent in 2011.
However the Hispanic graduation rate fell to 76.7 percent in 2012, down from 77.9 percent in 2011. Black students saw an increase in their graduation rate--84.5 percent graduated in 2012, up from 81.6 percent in 2011. White students also saw a slight increase--92 percent graduated in 2012, up from 89.6 percent in 2011.
School leaders needed something to celebrate a day after statewide Connecticut Mastery Test results showed students down in all grade levels and subject areas. The 10th-grade Connecticut Academic Performance Test, meanwhile, showed modestly higher scores.
Statewide, there were 43,883 students in the Class of 2012. Of those, 37,170 graduated on time and another 2,370 were said to be still enrolled.
The graduation rate increase was reflected in almost all subgroups, including students from low-income homes, English language learners and minority students. The graduation rate for Hispanic students increased 4.4 percentage points, while the rate for black students increased 1.8 percent points. The 2011-12 rates also show that 3.3 percent more English language learners and 2 percent more special education students graduated in 2011-12 than did in 2010-11.
Even so, there exists a significant gap between the graduation rate of students who are white and non-poor and others.
The graduation rate of white students in 2012 was 91.3, compared to 73 percent for black students and 68.6 percent for Hispanic students. The graduation rate for students receiving free lunch is 66.6 percent. For others, 93.1 percent.
"Success in college and career begins with a high school diploma," said Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor. "We must continue this positive trend."
Pryor said funding has increased to support districts working to keep students in school and on track to graduate, but no analysis was provided Wednesday on why the rate is increasing.
"Part of the reason may be the strong emphasis that Governor Malloy and the General Assembly have placed on the importance of education -- and specifically, on the goal of preparing students for college and career," Pryor said. "That's a focus that our school districts increasingly share -- and are themselves building towards."
Rob Varnon contributed to this report.