Introduction

Children really are our future. The little ones that we are raising today will one day be working at our family businesses, voting in local elections, and teaching future generations.

Education Icon

The indicators demonstrated on this page measure outcomes across various critical stages of a child’s development. Children who enter school unprepared for kindergarten can struggle, lose confidence and fall behind. If they are not able to ‘learn to read’ by third grade, they are less able to ‘read to learn’ from Grade 4 and beyond. And without a financial means to attend college in their sights, many aren’t motivated to keep up attendance or try hard in their high school studies.

Thanks to the work of our local literacy coalitions, the Early Childhood Alliance, Say Yes to Education Syracuse, and multiple community organizations, we are beginning to see optimistic development in these areas. But much work still needs to be done to ensure that all of our children have equal access to effective schooling and enter ready to learn and excel.

By ensuring that our children receive a quality education across their lifespan, we are also addressing numerous community challenges at the same time — from poverty to home ownership and healthcare outcomes. Setting them up well now will help our next generation to succeed, planting the seed for a prosperous and thriving region.

Early Childhood Education

Kindergarten Pass Rates - Syracuse

Absenteeism K-3 - Syracuse

Grade 3 Pass Rates - Syracuse

Grade 3 Test Scores - Onondaga County

Grade 3 Test Scores - Madison County

Grade 3 Test Scores - Oswego County

Grade 3 Test Scores - Cayuga County

Grade 3 Test Scores - Cortland County

Grade 3 Test Scores - Syracuse

Grade 3 Test Scores - Madison County

Grade 3 Test Scores - Oswego County

Grade 3 Test Scores - Cayuga County

Grade 3 Test Scores - Cayuga County

Summer Learning Loss - Syracuse

Let's Break It Down

Disparities persist between city and suburban test scores.

Kindergarten readiness rates measure the percent of children deemed ready to enter kindergarten according to assessment scores, though most children continue on regardless. A child’s early education – pre-kindergarten through third grade – is a crucial period considered to be predictive of their success in the future.

A stark contrast exists between Syracuse and other areas of Onondaga County in third grade Math and English Language Arts (ELA) test scores. Out of a potential four point scale, the majority of students in the Syracuse City School District are testing at level one or two, meaning performance is well below proficient standards for the third grade level. In many suburban school districts, significantly more students are coming in at levels three and four.

Also in contrast to suburban test scores are rural school districts in Madison and Cortland counties. Test scores in smaller villages or farming communities such as the Morrisville-Eaton and McGraw Central School District concentrate at levels one or two.

Why Does It Matter?

Early childhood education is a major predictor of a child’s future.

A child’s early education can impact his or her future significantly. Children who enter kindergarten already behind may struggle to keep up through the remainder of their education. Having access to a strong education between pre-kindergarten and third grade correlates to school success, high graduation rates and low instances of juvenile crime and teen pregnancy.

The ability to successfully read directly influences all other areas of a child’s education and learning capabilities. Until third grade, students are typically learning to read, while after third grade, students are reading to learn. Therefore, a student who is not able to read proficiently by third grade may also struggle in other subjects like math and science. In addition to the challenges that poverty brings to education, Syracuse’s high immigrant population is leading to a growing number of young students in the Syracuse City School District with limited English proficiency, making English Language Arts (ELA) tests difficult to pass.

Summer learning loss, or the tendency for students to lose some of what they learned over the school year during summer break, can set children back significantly when they return to school in the fall. In contrast, students with access to learning opportunities and educational materials during the summer months often see gains heading into the new school year.

With greater access to quality education, our future citizens and workforce can become economically stronger and more civically engaged.

Early childhood education is a major predictor of a child’s future.

A Local Story

Reading as a Family

Chol-Awan Majok was the first in his family to attend school when he immigrated to the United States at age sixteen as one of the ‘lost boys’ of Sudan. The lessons he learned from his father were ingrained in him at an early age — that learning how to read and write is crucial to being successful in life.

His father always encouraged Chol to do his very best in school. His dad pushed him to make a real difference in the world; nothing was too small to accomplish and knowledge was power. Those simple lessons are something he finds invaluable now that he sees his own children flourishing.

Chol and his wife, Abiei, take a page from his father’s book by bringing their children to the library each week. Even when they were too young to know how to read, they wanted to teach them the importance of learning. When their third child was born, Chol’s wife enrolled them in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library through the Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County.

Imagination Library is a countywide program designed to improve children’s kindergarten readiness. Each month, enrolled children receive a free book in the mail to them, up until their fifth birthday.

Setting time aside to read is something that Chol and his family look forward to. The look in his children’s eyes when the books arrive says it all; they can’t wait to read them, so Chol and his wife always set aside time to read them together as a family. 

“When the new books come in the mail we take time to bond and read together,” said Chol. “It is a priceless tool for our children’s education and we are grateful to have this program available to us.”

What You Can Do

Give input and get involved.

Whether you’re an experienced volunteer, an activist, a student, working professional, or a stay-at-home parent, there are roles both big and small that you can play to shape the future of the region.

See Additional Opportunities View All
Volunteer
Read to children through Syracuse 20/20’S Book Buddy Program Learn More »
Donate
Support the Mid-York Library System Learn More »
Take Action
Join a community action group Learn More »
Civic Engagement
Join a board Learn More »

Attendance

Public School Enrollment - Onondaga County

Public School Enrollment - Madison County

Public School Enrollment - Oswego County

Public School Enrollment - Cayuga County

Public School Enrollment - Cortland County

Public School Enrollment - Syracuse

Public School Enrollment - Oneida

Public School Enrollment - Oswego City

Public School Enrollment - Auburn

Public School Enrollment - Cortland City

Dropouts - Onondaga County

Dropouts - Madison County

Dropouts - Oswego County

Dropouts - Cayuga County

Dropouts - Cortland County

Dropouts - Syracuse

Dropouts - Oneida

Dropouts - Oswego City

Dropouts - Auburn

Dropouts - Cortland City

Let's Break It Down

Dropout rates are higher for students living in lower income areas

Public school enrollment is highest in the city of Syracuse, as it has the highest population in Central New York. Public school enrollment in Onondaga, Madison, Cayuga, Oswego and Cortland county school districts remained consistent between 2013 and 2018, with small increases and decreases throughout.

In 2018, the dropout rate in the Syracuse City School District was 17 percent, which was higher than any other district in the region and well above the national dropout rate of 5.3 percent. Other districts with high dropout rates include the Auburn City School District (14 percent), Oswego City School District (13 percent), and some smaller districts in Cayuga and Madison Counties (11 to 17 percent). However, many districts have made significant progress in recent years. For example, the Hannibal School District had a dropout rate over 26 percent in 2015. Since then it has steadily improved and in 2018 it was down to just over 6 percent.

Dropout rates show that large disparities exist between students of differing income level households. Within Onondaga County, areas with more wealth had lower high school dropout rates.

Dropout rates represent the percentage of 16-24 year olds who are no longer in school and have not earned a high school diploma or GED. In this instance we are looking at dropout rates out of total students enrolled in grades 9-12. Some school districts also look at dropout rates by cohort (by the year a child enters 9th grade).

Why Does It Matter?

Attendance and graduation are key to a student’s future success.

Jobs in today’s economy most often require at least a high school diploma. In addition, it has been found that educational attainment correlates directly to earnings during a person’s lifetime. In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 31 percent of employment opportunities required less than a high school diploma and the weekly median wage for that segment was $592, or approximately $31,000 per year.

Attendance is a key factor in successful high school completion. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, attendance is correlated with a students’ ability to graduate. Students who are chronically absent may be caring for other siblings or family members, working to support their family, struggling with behavioral health or physical health issues, or may not be engaged in their schoolwork.

Differences exist in absenteeism and high school dropout rates between White students and students of color. According to the Department of Education, 14.5 percent of White students nationally were chronically absent in the 2015-2016 school year compared to 20.5 percent of Black students, 17 percent of Hispanic students and 26 percent of Native American students in the same time period.

In New York State, Black and Hispanic students are less likely to graduate from high school than their White counterparts. In 2019, the graduation rate was 75 percent for Black and Hispanic students versus 90 percent for White students. Additionally, the graduation rate for students considered economically disadvantaged was 77 percent versus 90 percent for students who were not economically disadvantaged.

Attendance and graduation are key to a student’s future success.

A Local Story

Learning What's Out There

When students enter the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection (HW-SC) program, Regional Executive Director Wayne O’Connor says many dream of becoming NBA players or cosmetologists.

Over the course of the program, O’Connor hears students’ aspirations evolve; they say journalist, photographer, researcher or even an environmentalist.

These new passions are ignited when HW-SC students explore the city of Syracuse and beyond on “learning expeditions.”

Learning expeditions put students in the field – whether that’s a zoo or a state park. O’Connor arranges interviews with professionals and gives students the resources needed to document their expedition, record observations and take photographs and video.

It was on a learning expedition that Charisma Sykes found that her passion and interest lay in the environment.

“[What I’m most interested in] is preservation and [the importance of] renewable energy,” said Sykes. “We are putting too much fossil fuels in the air. The way we are heading – the earth can’t handle it. People are getting sick and things are getting destroyed. There’s nothing getting preserved.”

Sykes and other students traveled to Beaver Lake and Rosamond Gifford Zoo where they learned about animals’ well-being in zoos, birds and their environment through nature photography.

Expeditions such as Charisma’s are especially important because many HW-SC students have never set foot outside of the city of Syracuse. There are more than 1,100 HW-SC students in 10 Syracuse City School District schools, and 99 percent face poverty and other life challenges. Students come to this program with evidence-based risk factors, including poor attendance, failing two or more core subjects and low standardized test scores. At the time she came to HW-SC, Sykes was struggling with math.

“I really wasn’t good at math,” said Sykes. “I really needed help and tutoring. I asked my parents [if I could join] and they said it was OK.”

Sykes has been a mainstay at Hillside, starting early when she was in middle school. Now a senior at Henninger High School, she credits the organization for her newfound confidence. She has observed the staff and countless advocates work hard to make sure every student succeeds.

For O’Connor it’s simple: It’s being there for their students and setting the bar high.

“We have high expectations,” said O’Connor. “We give a lot of love, affection and support. We’ve learned to work on Saturdays, and we’ve learned to work late.”

What You Can Do

Give input and get involved.

Whether you’re an experienced volunteer, an activist, a student, working professional, or a stay-at-home parent, there are roles both big and small that you can play to shape the future of the region.

See Additional Opportunities View All
Volunteer
Transport students to and from college through On Point for College Learn More »
Donate
Send Syracuse students to college through Say Yes to Education Syracuse Learn More »
Take Action
Join a community action group Learn More »
Civic Engagement
Join a board Learn More »

Public School Completion

Educational Attainment - Onondaga County

Educational Attainment - Madison County

Educational Attainment - Oswego County

Educational Attainment - Cayuga County

Educational Attainment - Cortland County

Educational Attainment - Syracuse

Educational Attainment - Oneida

Educational Attainment - Oswego City

Educational Attainment - Auburn

Educational Attainment - Cortland City

Graduation Rates - Onondaga County

Graduation Rates - Madison County

Graduation Rates - Oswego County

Graduation Rates - Cayuga County

Graduation Rates - Cortland County

Graduation Rates - Syracuse

Graduation Rates - Oneida

Graduation Rates - Oswego City

Graduation Rates - Auburn

Graduation Rates - Cortland City

Let's Break It Down

Central New York and the City of Syracuse are seeing rising graduation rates.

In Onondaga, Madison, Oswego, Cayuga, and Cortland counties, a significant majority of the workforce over the age of 25 had at least a high school degree in 2018. 5,369 people in Onondaga County’s workforce had at least a 12th grade education but no high school diploma. Census tracts throughout Central New York with lower median incomes had more people in the workforce without a high school diploma compared to tracts with higher median incomes.

Graduation rates measure the percentage of students who graduate in four years from high school each June, though many students graduate soon after in August or the following year. In 2018 the average graduation rate was 81 percent in Onondaga County, 86 percent in Madison County, 81 percent in Cayuga County, 83 percent in Oswego County and 85 percent in Cortland County. In each county, the most urban school district had the lowest graduation rate.

Central New York’s overall graduation rate of 82 percent was slightly lower than the state rate of 83 percent in 2018. In recent years the Syracuse City School District has seen its graduation rate increase from 54.5 percent in 2015 to 64.5 percent in 2019. Rates also rose in the region’s other city school districts and in New York State overall.

Why Does It Matter?

Educational attainment is essential in today’s economy.

Jobs in today’s economy most often require at least a high school diploma. In addition, it has been found that educational attainment correlates directly to earnings during a person’s lifetime. In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 31 percent of employment opportunities required less than a high school diploma.

Because a high school diploma is becoming more of a minimum requirement for employment, students who graduate are more likely to get a higher paying job. In 2019, the Bureau found the average median weekly earnings for someone with less than a high school diploma was $592 and that segment carried an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent. By comparison, workers with a high school diploma had median weekly earnings of $746 and an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. Those with a Bachelor’s degree had median weekly earnings of $1,248 and an unemployment rate of 2.2 percent.

With a more educated workforce, our economy is able to grow and adapt to changing needs and modern technologies.

Historically, there have been significant economic and racial disparities in public school completion rates. In New York State, the graduation rate in 2019 for Black and Hispanic students was 75 percent, compared to 90 percent graduation rate for White students. One positive sign is that in Syracuse disparities in graduation rates between races have decreased. In 2018, the Syracuse City School District reported 64 percent of White and 62 percent of Black students graduated from high school. Since then, the gap has closed further, although graduation rates are still lower among American Indian and Multiracial students than among White, Black, and Hispanic students.

A 2016 Gallup poll found that there is a strong link between hope and grades, achievement scores, retention and future employment. This means that the more hopeful a student feels about his or her future, the more engaged and motivated they may be to stay in school, and ultimately graduate.

Educational attainment is essential in today’s economy.

A Local Story

The Opportunity to Succeed

When Samantha Turnquest moved with her family from New York City to Syracuse, she had big plans for her education. But she was faced with one major roadblock: affordability. Her mother worked full-time just to support her and her three brothers, so Samantha felt overwhelmed by the daunting responsibility of paying for college alone.

If an opportunity doesn’t present itself, it’s hard to have a vision for yourself, according to Turnquest.

This is a common problem for students in the Syracuse City School District (SCSD), where half of the students live in poverty. Say Yes to Education was introduced in Syracuse nearly 10 years ago to help the community come together around a common goal: increasing post-secondary educational attainment for the city’s children.

The community-wide partnership provides SCSD students with a path to college in the form of last-dollar scholarships. Say Yes also provides other supports across all grades, from legal and health services to mental health support and after-school programs.

The impact of this promise is already showing dividends. The district has witnessed a 14 percent jump in its overall high school graduation rate since 2008. And in 2016, 64 percent of both Caucasian and African-American students graduated from high school, showcasing the elimination of a previous gap between the academic achievement of white and black students.

Say Yes came to Turnquest’s school just in time. She was able to attend the University of Albany, graduating with a biology degree. She has plans to pursue physical therapy or public health.

Turnquest says Say Yes cares about young people’s future beyond the classroom, providing vital support to students who are determined to gain a good education. It’s a path that she says has her driven to give back for the help she received.

“No matter what path I pursue, I’m going to make sure I’m always paying it forward.”

What You Can Do

Give input and get involved.

Whether you’re an experienced volunteer, an activist, a student, working professional, or a stay-at-home parent, there are roles both big and small that you can play to shape the future of the region.

See Additional Opportunities View All
Volunteer
Tutor adults or children at the Northside Learning Center Learn More »
Donate
Put underprivileged children through summer camp at Camp Lookout Learn More »
Take Action
Join a community action group Learn More »
Civic Engagement
Join a board Learn More »