The graduation rate for high school students in Camden has increased by 21 percentage points since 2012, according to district officials. Additionally, the dropout rate is down 9 percentage points since 2012, which was the last year before the state took over the district and Gov. Christie appointed Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard.

The graduation and dropout data will be released at a "State of the Schools" event Monday morning hosted by Rouhanifard and other officials at Alfred Cramer College Preparatory Lab School.

The graduation rate was below 50 percent when Rouhanifard was hired in 2013. For the 2015-16 school year it was 70 percent, an increase of six percentage points over the previous school year. Overall, 450 students from the approximately 10,000-student district graduated from high school last year, up from 403 in 2012 - a year when thousands more students were enrolled in city schools.

In 2012, the district's dropout rate was at 21 percent; last year it was 12 percent.

In an interview last week, Rouhanifard tempered the results by noting that many students who graduate are still unprepared for the rigor of college classes or for finding a viable career.

"What we're really encouraged by is the dropout rate," he said, adding that the dropout rate among African American students alone has been cut in half since 2012. "That in and of itself is a victory."

Rouhanifard's tenure in Camden has brought dramatic changes to the school district, most notably the public-charter hybrid schools that have multiplied in the city. In 2014, Rouhanifard elected to turn five of the city's most struggling schools into Renaissance schools, meaning the schools are now publicly funded but privately operated. Unlike traditional charter schools, they are mandated to accept all children who live in the surrounding catchment area, as well as provide services such as special education.

Though many parents have embraced the new schools, Rouhanifard has been criticized by some community members who say he has focused on creating new schools rather than on making improvements to traditional public schools.

In October, Rouhanifard announced the first major funding project to be awarded to Camden by the state in many years: a plan to demolish the aging Camden High School building and replace it with a modern facility.

The district has each year launched new services aimed at supporting students in the classroom and beyond. This year, those enhancements include a home-visit program aimed at helping the students who are struggling the most, as well as enhanced literacy and SAT-prep services, and family coordinators who serve as liaisons between parents and schools.

But the district's test scores remain among the worst in the state, and problems with curriculum and chronic absenteeism remain.

Since he was appointed, Rouhanifard has often said that he believes the state takeover should not remain in place indefinitely and that he supports an eventual return to local control.

"We still have a long way to go," he said. "But the progress is real."

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