Monday, April 28, 2014


By Lisa Leff, The Associated Press from the San Bernardino County Sun |

4/27/14, 12:01 PM PDT  ::  SAN FRANCISCO >> The high school graduation rate in the United States will not increase as quickly as experts think it can without more improvement in California, which educates one-fifth of the nation’s low-income school children and more Hispanic students than any other state, a report set to be released Monday concludes.

The “Building a Grad Nation” report (follows on 4LAKidsNews) , produced by a coalition of advocacy groups and researchers at Johns Hopkins University, credits the nation’s most populous and diverse state with developing effective strategies that helped push its 2012 graduation rate to 79 percent, an increase of five percentage points from two years earlier and one point below the national average.

“California has been making progress, notwithstanding huge demographic changes and budget challenges,” said the report’s authors, who foresee 90 percent of the nation’s high school students earning diplomas in 2020, if recent trends hold. “Educators have learned how to address the needs of students from non-English speaking backgrounds; districts have embarked on major reform efforts (and) large investments were made in out-of-school-time learning.”

The gains from 2010 to 2012, the most recent year for which statistics were available, were seen across economic and racial groups, with the graduation rate for socioeconomically disadvantaged high school seniors also increasing five percentage points, from 68 percent to 73 percent. During the same two-year period, the growth was six percentage points for Hispanic and African-American students, who graduated at a rate of 74 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

Among the factors contributing to the positive trend are the state’s $550 million annual investment in after-school and summer classes for students in kindergarten through ninth grade, outreach and support programs geared at parents who do not speak English and the creation within high schools of smaller programs that combine a career theme with academics.

“This is really something most educators buy into, the need to graduate from high school,” Russell Rumberger, director of the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara. “I think they have realized it’s no more work to them other than to pay a little more attention to kids.”

But Rumberger, who has reviewed the report and contributed information to it, cautioned against painting too rosy a picture. He noted that the four-year graduation rate in 2012 was 62 percent for California’s English language learners, who make up 29 percent of the state’s K-12 student population.

“There is movement in it. It has gone up more compared to for the state as a whole. But that still means one out of every three English learners is dropping out of high school, so that’s nothing to brag about,” he said.

The California Department of Education could show it was serious about boosting the four-year graduation rate by including the information in a school-by-school accountability program, Rumberger said.

“I don’t personally think the state is doing as much as it could or should, and I don’t think the federal government is either,” he said.

Joanna Fox, a senior policy analyst at Johns Hopkins who wrote the part of the report on California, said she is hopeful the state’s new school funding system, which directs money to schools based on how many students they have from low-income families, learning English or living in foster care, will help keep the national momentum going.

“I think California can drive it, to be honest, because of the size of your student population,” Fox said.

The report was a collaboration of the America’s Promise Alliance, a coalition of groups focused on helping disadvantaged young people that was founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell; the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins; the Alliance for Excellent Education; and the public policy firm Civic Enterprises. It is scheduled to be presented Monday in Washington at the Building a GradNation Summit.

  • California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson also is scheduled to release high school completion data for the class of 2013 on Monday. (follows report below)


CDE PRESS RELEASE | Grad Rate Tops 80% - Year 2014 (CA Dept of Education)

California Department of Education News Release

Release: #14-42
April 28, 2014

Contact: Tina Jung
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces High School Graduation Rate Tops 80 Percent

LOS ANGELES—For the fourth year in a row, California's graduation rate climbed as the dropout rate fell, particularly for students of color, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

More than eight out of 10 students statewide, or 80.2 percent, who started high school in 2009-10 graduated with their class in 2013. That is up 1.3 percentage points from the year before (Table 1). Graduation rates among African-American and Hispanic students climbed faster than the statewide average, although the rates remained lower overall. Among African-American students, 67.9 percent graduated with their class in 2013, up 1.9 percentage points from the year before. Among Hispanic students, 75.4 percent graduated with their class, up 1.7 percentage points from the year before (Tables 2 and 3).

"For the first time in our state's history, more than 80 percent of our students are graduating—a clear sign of their hard work and the support they receive from their teachers, families, and communities," Torlakson said. "We are continuing toward our goal of graduating 100 percent of our students with the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed."

Along with the rise in the graduation rate, there was a dip in the dropout rate. Of the students who started high school in 2009-10, 11.6 percent dropped out. That is down 1.5 percentage points from the 2011-12 dropout rate (Table 1). Again, the decline in dropout rates among African-American and Hispanic students compared favorably to the statewide rates. Among African-American students, 19.9 percent dropped out, down 2.2 percentage points from the year before. Among Hispanic students, 14.1 percent dropped out, down 2 percentage points from the year before (Tables 2 and 3).

Another 8.2 percent of students in the total cohort are neither graduates nor dropouts. That group is up 0.1 of a percentage point from 2011-12 (Table 1). A cohort refers to a particular group of students tracked over a given time period. These students either are non-diploma special education students (0.5 percent), other students who elected to take and then passed a high school equivalency test (in this instance, the General Educational Development [GED] Test) (0.2 percent), or still enrolled in school (7.5 percent).

Graduation and dropout rates for counties, districts, and schools across California were calculated based on four-year cohort information using the state's California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). This is the fourth time this four-year cohort information was calculated, meaning data may only be compared accurately over the four-year period from 2009-10 to 2012-13. Prior to 2009-10, graduation and dropout rates used different calculation systems and cannot be accurately compared to the cohort rates.

Cohort graduation rates are used to determine whether schools met their targets for increasing the graduation rate for Adequate Yearly Progress reporting under the federal accountability system. The cohort dropout rate is calculated for high school students grades nine through twelve, although some students drop out as early as middle school.

To view and download state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates, visit the California Department of Education's DataQuest. Downloadable data sheets are available on the Cohort Outcome Data Web page. Caution is urged when comparing graduation or dropout rates across individual schools and districts. For example, some county office schools, alternative schools, or dropout recovery high schools serve only those students who are already at the greatest risk of dropping out, compared with the broader population at traditional high schools. Therefore, these individual schools and districts cannot be directly compared.

Attachments: Tables 1–3

# # # #

Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5206, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

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