By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News | http://bit.ly/MVeZES
Dropouts in the whole LAUSD -- and at your school
6/27/2012 07:21:00 PM PDT :: Los Angeles Unified's graduation rate took a slight dip while its dropout rate improved as the district succeeded in keeping more struggling students in school, according to a state report released Wednesday.
According to the California Department of Education, 61.6 percent of LAUSD's Class of 2011 received their diplomas, compared with 62.4 percent who graduated in 2010.
The district's dropout rate, meanwhile, improved from 24.8 percent in 2010 to 20.6 percent last year.
The remaining students not counted in the dropout or graduation rates include seniors who didn't have enough credits to graduate, but still remained in school. That figure jumped from 12.2 percent to 17.5 percent over the same period.
"I'm extremely pleased with the results and the knowledge that we are already making good progress (for 2012)," Superintendent John Deasy said. "Looking back more than a year ago, far fewer kids have left us, which is very positive ... Even though they struggled, they stayed with us."
Dropout prevention has been one of Deasy's top priorities during his two years with the district. In addition to advocating credit-recovery and other intervention programs, he overhauled Los Angeles Unified's disciplinary policies in an effort to minimize the number of students who are "pushed out" of the system by multiple suspensions.
"When we keep them," he said, "we can do good with them."
The new data is based on a system that tracks students from the time they enter ninth grade, even if they transfer to another public school in California. It's the second year the tracking system was used, which allowed a comparison with 2010 figures.
School districts in Los Angeles County racked up a graduation rate of 71.6 percent in 2011, a 1.1 point increase from the prior year. The dropout rate improved from 18.9 percent in 2010 to 15.7 percent in 2011, figures show.
Statewide, 76.3 percent of students who started ninth grade in 2007 graduated with their class in 2011, a uptick of 1.5 percent. The dropout rate dipped 2.2 points to 14.4 percent.
"We're heading in the right direction," Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a conference call. "We want 85 to 90 percent (graduation rates) in the future."
Torlakson noted gains statewide among Hispanic and African-American students, as well as English-learners. The improvements were especially noteworthy, he said, given budget cuts that resulted in larger class sizes, shortened school calendars and limited summer school offerings.
In Los Angeles Unified, the graduation rate for Hispanics slipped by about 1 point to 59.8 percent in 2011, although the dropout rate improved by 4.1 points, to 21.1 percent. Among African-Americans, the grad rate jumped from 71.6 to 74.9 percent, while the dropout rate fell from 30.1 to 24.5 percent.
"Even though these rates are improving, at the rate California is going, it will take us 13 years to close the graduation gap between Latina and African-American students and their white peers," said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of The Education Trust-West, a statewide advocacy group. "Tens of thousands of dropouts represent a large-scale tragedy for the California economy and our state's future prosperity."
English-learners, who represent about one-third of Los Angeles Unified students, also showed improved graduation rates, lower dropout rates and more students staying in school - nearly 25 percent - in an effort to earn their diploma.
Deasy said that efforts to make English-learners proficient in their adopted language are critical to the students' academic success.
"It's virtually impossible to take the courses they need to graduate unless they're reclassified as proficient," he said. "We had the single-highest spike in reclassification rates in the state. The door is now open for them to graduate."
Some of the district's most successful high schools are located in the San Fernando Valley, including Verdugo Hills, with an 82.9 percent grad rate, Chatsworth and Taft (each with 83 percent), North Hollywood (83.9 percent), and Valley Alternative Magnet (93.5 percent).
High Tech High in Lake Balboa graduated 88.5 percent of its first graduating class in 2011. At Daniel Pearl High, a tiny journalism magnet in Lake Balboa, all 58 members of the 2011 senior class earned their diploma.