Quality educational opportunities are critical to helping our children develop to their maximum potential and to our community’s ability to compete in the global economy.
In this section, we summarize trends in the performance of our area’s educational system, including: 1) prekindergarten enrollment; 2) percentage of preschoolers receiving special education services; 3) per-student spending; 4) passing rates on fourth-grade English and math exams; 5) passing rates among low-income and minority students; 6) high school graduation rates; 7) post-graduation plans of high school graduates; and 8) education levels among adults.
In all cases, comparisons to state statistics reflect the state excluding New York City.
The percentage of preschoolers receiving special education services in Orange County has increased, but remained the lowest in the region. In contrast, the percentage of 4-year-olds in publicly funded prekindergarten programs was the highest in the region. Average per-student spending was lower than the statewide average.
The county had lower passing rates on fourth-grade English and math exams than the state. Passing rates were even lower among low-income and minority students. High school graduation rates have increased to 85%, just above the state (84%). An increasing proportion of high school graduates planned to attend 2-year (rather than 4-year) colleges, and an increasing percentage of the region’s adult residents were college educated.
The percentage of preschoolers receiving special education services has been increasing since 2000.
In 2014, 6.1% of preschoolers in the county received special education services, slightly above the state (5.9%). The rate increased from 2000 to 2005 then fluctuated slightly until 2014, similar to the statewide trend. Orange’s rates were the lowest in the region throughout the decade.
Prekindergarten enrollment has been increasing since 2000 and is the highest in the region.
Orange was the only county in the region with prekindergarten participation levels on par with the state rate. In 2014, 36% of Orange County’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in publicly funded prekindergarten programs, same as the state and higher than the region’s 26%.
Per-student spending by school districts is lower than the region and state.
School districts in Orange County spent $22,100 per student in 2015, about $500 less than the state and the lowest in the region. School spending has grown 53% in Orange since 2000, even after adjusting for inflation.
The passing rates on fourth-grade English and math exams were below state rates.
Like the region, Orange was below the state in performance on New York’s English and math exams for fourth-graders. In 2016, the passing rate of 36% in English was 3 points below the state. In math, the passing rate of 42% was 4 points below the state. However, it should be noted that a substantial number of students did not take state exams in 2016 due to parent concerns about testing in schools. The large percentage of students not taking the exam may have a significant effect on overall achievement levels and should therefore give caution to interpreting these results. The opt out rate for the English exam was 32% for Orange, and 35% for the math exam.
Passing rates among low-income and minority students were lower than for other students.
Passing rates on state tests were significantly lower for low-income, African American and Hispanic students than for their peers. While 22% of low-income fourth-graders passed English and 27% passed math in 2016, 48% and 54% of students who were not low-income passed the English and math tests. The disparities by race and ethnicity of students were similar; for example, 26% of African American and 25% of Hispanic fourth-graders passed the English exam, compared to 47% of white fourth-graders.
Both high school graduation and dropout rates were in line with statewide trends.
Of the class of 2014, 86% of the 2010 cohort graduated on time and 6% of the cohort dropped out. Orange's graduation rate in 2014 was slightly above the state's, while the dropout rate was even with the state and lowest in the region.
An increasing proportion of high school graduates planned to attend 2-year colleges.
More high school graduates were headed to college (2- or 4-year), rising from 78% in 2001 to 81% in 2014. The increase came from growth in the share headed to 2-year colleges, which rose from 34% to 38%, similar to the rest of the region.
Education levels were somewhat lower in Orange compared to the region.
In 2010-14, 58% of adults had attended at least some college, 2 percentage points below the region and the state and on par with the nation. About 12% of Orange residents did not have a high school diploma, higher than Dutchess (10%) and Ulster (11%).
In 2010-14, the proportion of county residents with a 4-year degree or higher was 52% among Asians, 30% among whites, 25% among African American residents and 17% among Hispanics. These disparities are similar to those at the state and national level.