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.
In Ulster County, the rate of preschoolers receiving special education services remained steady at 6.5%, as well as the rate of prekindergarten enrollment at 24%. Per-student spending by school districts in the county was the highest in the region.
The county had lower passing rates on fourth-grade math and English exams than the state. Passing rates were even lower among low-income and minority students. High school graduation rates (82%) were slightly below the state rate. An increasing proportion of high school graduates planned to attend 2-year (rather than 4-year) colleges, and an increasing percentage of the county’s adult residents were college-educated.
The percentage of preschoolers receiving special education services has been increasing since 2000.
About 6.5% of preschoolers in Ulster received special education services in 2014, lower than the region (6.7%) and higher than the state (5.9%). Since 2000, the rate in Ulster has increased 49%, following a similar trend in the region.
Prekindergarten enrollment in Ulster County has been increasing since 2000.
The proportion of 4-year-olds in publicly funded prekindergarten programs increased to 24% in 2014 from 5% in 2001 but remained lower than the state (36%). In 2014, Ulster had a lower rate than Orange (36%), yet was higher than Dutchess (11%).
Per-student spending by school districts in Ulster was the highest in the region.
Ulster had the highest level of school spending in the region at $24,400 per student in 2015, about $1,900 more than the state figure. School spending has grown 59% in the county since 2000, even after adjusting for inflation. Not only did Ulster have the biggest increase during the decade, it consistently had the highest level of spending among counties in the region.
The passing rates on fourth-grade English and math exams in Ulster County were lower than the region and state.
The 2016 passing rate of 29% in English was 10 points below the state, and in math, the passing rate of 35% was 11 points below the state. In both English and math, Ulster had the lowest passing rate in the region. 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 37% for Ulster and 42% 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 18% of low-income fourth-graders passed English and 23% passed math in 2016, 45% and 51% 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, 15% of African American and 17% of Hispanic fourth-graders passed the English exam, compared to 36% of white fourth-graders.
In Ulster County, high school graduation rates have increased and dropout rates have decreased.
About 82% of Ulster’s 2010 cohort graduated on time (by 2014), up from 79% in 2008 and compared to 85% in the state. About 9% of the cohort dropped out, down from 11% in 2008 yet higher than the 6% in the state and 7% in the region.
An increasing proportion of high school graduates planned to attend 2-year colleges.
A growing share of high school graduates in Ulster was planning to attend 2-year colleges, rising 8 percentage points from 2001 to 43% in 2014. The proportion planning on a 4-year college decreased 9 points to 35% over the same time period.
Education levels among adults increased, with more having a college education.
Education levels among adults in the county were slightly lower than the state and slightly higher than national figures. In 2010-14, 59% of adults had attended at least some college. About 30% of the county’s residents had a 4-year degree or higher in 2010-14, and 11% did not have a high school diploma down from 18% in 2000.
Over half of all Asian residents in Ulster County had at least a 4-year degree in 2010-14, compared to 31% of white residents, 17% of Hispanics and 13% of African American residents. These disparities were similar to those at the national and state levels, though the proportions for Asian and African American residents in Ulster trailed those in the region and the state by several percentage points.