Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Three out of five students last year left with diploma in hand after four years at Binghamton High School.
Graduation numbers are 14 percent lower than the state average, and the lowest in Broome County.
Binghamton Superintendent Dr. Marion Martinez said the problem isn't a high drop-out rate, but students entering ninth grade without enough under their belt to make it through in four years.
"By the time they come in, they're already behind," Martinez said. "They certainly can learn, it just takes them extra time to learn."
After five or six years in school, however, the rate improves to 74 percent.
Martinez was brought to Binghamton this year to help tackle the district's sub-par graduation rate.
She said her plan involves taking care of students' needs from day one.
"Identify those kids who are coming into our district, assessing what their strengths are, and giving them the support they need immediately," Martinez said.
Martinez and the district plan to use data teams in each school to study student needs throughout the year and make adjustments as needed.
The data teams will be comprised of volunteers of teachers and administrators.
Martinez said the district needs to do a better job connecting education with life after school.
"Students are not engaged as they could be," she said, "Because they don't see the purpose of their learning."
She said local business owners complain students don't have even the basics of learning when they leave.
Martinez said the common core curriculum can help fix that while still challenging students.
"We need to have high expectations for student performance and not attempt to water down the curriculum." she said.
Martinez said starting student prep early will be key in improving the graduation rate over the next 10 years.
"The stronger the preschool experience," she said, "The less likely a student is to drop out."
Although the graduation rate improves markedly with extra time, it doesn't for everyone.
Less than half -- 49.2 percent -- of students with disabilities and 57.9 percent of low income students graduated in six years.
View the full 2011-2012 graduation report at the NYSED website.