Wednesday, July 16, 2008



By Adrienne Alpert - abc7 news          VIDEO

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 - VAN NUYS (KABC) -- "Not good news," says California's Superintendent of Public Instruction. That, after he revealed that nearly a quarter of all public high school students in the state dropped out last year.


If 24.2 percent of "all public high school students" drop out per year in California then only 3.2 of students out of one hundred makes it through the four year program!  One (dangerously) supposes that the writer (or the state superintendent)  really means is that the drop out rate is projected over four years and that 24.2% of all 9th graders drop out before they can graduate in four years.

THE TRUTH IS that this report is based on only one year of data, projected over four years [see CDE press release below: "Until student-identifier data are collected over four years, CDE will still be reporting an estimated four-year graduation rate and a derived four-year dropout rate."}

This year's data showed a one year drop out rate of 6.05%

What remains to be seen is:  How many students moved outside the data pool? (outside the state), How many students take five years to graduate? etc. 

And yes, these numbers are abysmal!

In the past, dropout rates have been based on estimates and formulas. Wednesday, the state released figures based on tracking each student. Statewide, the dropout rate is 24.2 percent.

In Los Angeles Unified School District, the rate is, as expected, higher: The LAUSD dropout rate is 33.6 percent.

State Schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell issued the first dropout report using individual student ID numbers to determine the rate.

"The dropout rate of over 24 percent is too high," said O'Connell. "It's unacceptable, and absolutely must be addressed. The 24.2 percent dropout rate in the state of California represents a huge loss of potential to our state, to our economy, to our country."

Superintendent O'Connell said the ethnic breakdown shows a 40 percent dropout rate for African-American students, and 30 percent for Latino students. He called that a crisis.

And for LAUSD, the dropout rate is not the 50 percent as shown in recent studies, but it is still higher than the state average.

"L.A. Unified School District's dropout rate was 33.6 percent, 9 through 12, and as I have said many times: one dropout is one dropout too many," said Brewer. "We are clearly not happy with that number, but clearly it gives us a basis from which to work."

Meanwhile, in Sacramento Wednesday, the governor unveiled a new state Web site, comparing all California public schools, including their dropout rates.

"What we want do to do is open it up and make it competitive, one school with the other," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "So that when one school, for instance, has an enormous dropout rate, we will see it."

The California School Finder asks for an area; a school level, like high school; then schools within a selected radius. Once the schools are checked off, they can be compared side by side in many areas, like test scores and dropout rates.

Click here to use the California School Finder.

The big question about the dropout figures is why? Why are these dropout figures they way they are? And the big reason so far: transition. Students start failing from middle school to high school, and students fail who transfer among several high schools.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a response from Mayor Villaraigosa: "Whether it's one in two or one in three students, our schools' drop-out rate is simply unacceptable. This is why we are pushing for fundamental reform of the district that gives teachers and parents real voice and power in the classroom."


California Department of Education News Release

Release: #08-94
July 16, 2008

Contact: Tina Jung
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell Releases First Annual Report on Dropouts and Graduates Using Individual Student-Level Data

Use of Statewide Student Identifiers Allows for More Accurate Reporting

VAN NUYS — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today released a report on dropout and graduation rates for the 2006-07 school year that for the first time was compiled using individual student-level data.

The Statewide Student Identifier (SSID) provides each student a unique identification number and allows for much more accurate information about how many students are or are not completing their education.

In 2006-07, 67.6 percent of public school students in California graduated, the adjusted four-year derived dropout rate is 24.2 percent, and 8.2 percent completed or withdrew from school and are considered neither dropouts nor graduates, such as students who transferred to a private school, left the state, or earned a General Education Degree (GED).

"For too long, we had to rely on complicated formulas to make educated guesses about how many students were graduating and how many were leaving school without a diploma," O'Connell said. "Arguments over differing approaches to this calculation often resulted in confusing and distracting conversations. Now, using student-level data, we can improve the accuracy of our count of how many students drop out, increase accountability, and focus on preventing dropouts.

"Twenty-four percent of students dropping out is not good news. In fact, any student dropping out of school is one too many, and the data reveal a disturbingly high dropout rate for Latinos and African Americans. But, the dropout rate itself is only part of the story. Now, using the new student-level data we will have a much clearer picture of why students drop out. This is data-rich information that will be a powerful tool to better target resources, assistance, and interventions to keep students in school and on track."

Eva Vargas, a concerned grandparent and a member of the PICO affiliate San Diego Organizing Project, is active in the San Diego effort to increase graduation rates and improve opportunities for youth. (PICO [] (Outside Source) is a national network of faith-based community organizations working to create innovative solutions facing urban, suburban, and rural communities.)

"The dropout rate is everyone's business and having accurate data is an important first step," said Vargas. She has experienced firsthand the causes and the consequences of students dropping out of school when her grandson stopped attending school this year because of his fear of gangs and a feeling of disconnect from his high school.

"As people of faith, we believe we have an individual and a collective responsibility to be part of the solution to addressing the dropout issue," Vargas said. "This isn't just a crisis for our schools or for our students and their families. It's a crisis that affects each of us and that each of us has to help solve."

Senate Bill 1453, authored by former state Senator Dede Alpert, was signed into law in September 2002 to require the assignment of SSIDs. Local educational agencies have assigned all California kindergarten through grade twelve public school students a SSID that is unique, yet non-personally identifiable. The dropout data for the 2006-07 school year were calculated by the California Department of Education's (CDE) Data Management Division using information generated by the SSIDs.

It is important to note that it would be a mistake to simply compare this year's dropout numbers to last year's rate, which was 13 percent, because the numbers are based on different information. Before SSIDs, dropout rates were derived using only aggregate data of enrollment and dropouts collected annually through the California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS).

Now, individual student-level data allow districts and the state to collect and report what becomes of students who leave school. Each student withdrawing from a school is assigned one of 28 "withdrawal codes," indicating, for example, whether that student graduated, dropped out, withdrew, left the state or country, or completed their education in other ways. For the complete list of withdrawal codes, please visit Exit/Withdrawal Codes Descriptions, Version 8.0.3.

In the past, if a parent told a school that a student was transferring to a different school, the school would mark that student as having transferred to another public school. With SSIDs, the state can determine whether students marked as transfers indeed did enroll in another California public school. If the student does not show up at another California public school, there's reason for schools to try and find out what happened to the student.

"This will help ensure students in our education system don't fall through the cracks," O'Connell said.

SSIDs also make possible more accurate reporting about how many students neither graduated nor dropped out. Some of these students are referred as "completers" because they received a certificate of attendance or other credential in lieu of a diploma. Examples would be students who passed the GED exam or special education students who receive certificates of completion.

Dropout rate calculations are not posted for schools that are operated by county offices of education because of constraints in interpreting these calculations with high-mobility schools. Caution also must be used when calculating or analyzing dropout rates for other schools with high mobility including alternative schools or schools eligible or participating in the Alternative Schools Accountability Model (ASAM). These schools with high-student mobility are designed for students who are already at risk of not graduating because they are deficient in credit or have poor attendance, and should not be compared to regular comprehensive high schools. By design, alternative schools may serve many students over the course of a school year. In many cases, alternative schools serve only those students who are already at the greatest risk of dropping out of school because of their prior academic challenges. Students may stay in these schools for short periods of time with the intent of returning to their local comprehensive high schools.

The dropout rate calculations posted on the CDE Web site compare the counts of dropouts over the entire school year with a single day enrollment count on the CBEDS Information Day (first Wednesday of October). Calculating dropout rates for schools with a high volume of short-term students may result in overstated rates in excess of 100 percent because the point-in-time enrollment count will significantly understate the actual enrollment over time.

"I want to commend the teachers and administrators at alternative schools for all their hard work in helping at-risk students continue their education," said O'Connell. "Because of the way dropout data is reported – using as a baseline a school's enrollment on one day in the fall – schools with large numbers of students transferring in and out each year are likely to have misleadingly high dropout rates even if they are doing a good job serving their student population."  

SSIDs will eventually be tracked through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS, which will maintain longitudinal, individual student-level data including student demographics, program participation, grade level, enrollment, course enrollment and completion, discipline, state assessment, teacher assignment, and other data required to meet state and federal reporting requirements. CALPADS is scheduled to be fully implemented with all districts in the 2009-10 school year.

Until student-identifier data are collected over four years, CDE will still be reporting an estimated four-year graduation rate and a derived four-year dropout rate. In addition, school districts can continue to review the 2006-07 dropout and graduation data over the next month and make corrections. Any updated data will be posted by CDE in September 2008.

"The more accurate the information we receive, the more accurate our statewide reporting of graduation and dropout rates will be," O'Connell said. "This requires hard work at the local school and district level to ensure that student-level data is accurately entered. I continue to urge the Governor and the Legislature to approve funding for our local educational agencies on how to report Statewide Student Identifiers accurately. This training is critical to preserve the integrity of the information that will be the foundation of our education data system."

To download state, county, district, and school-level dropout data, please visit CDE's DataQuest (County, district, and school-level graduation rate information will be available on Data Quest by the end of next week.)

# # # # State school dropout rate cause for concern 7/16/08

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