by Dan Walters to the Sac Bee Capitol Alert Blog
September 11, 2008 -- There's still a bit of controversy over how many California's public school students drop out without graduating from high school. The latest state estimate is 24 percent, but some critics say the number understates the problem for a variety of reasons, including not counting those who never get to the ninth grade.
While the dropout numbers game continues, the California Dropout Rersearch Project, based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has developed another view of the dropout problem -- what happens to those who leave high school without diplomas?
School and Work Status for California Students in the Class of 2004 -- Two Years Later
Source: CDRP Policy Brief #10
Its new study found that 21 percent of those who dropped out before receiving diplomas in 2004, the latest year for which data were available, did obtain diplomas within two years, markedly higher than the 18 percent in the rest of the nation.
However, that was the only bit of good news since California's dropouts earned "general education development" (GED) certificates at a rate (16 percent) just half of the rest of the nation, and fewer than average (17 percent) were either enrolled in high school or pursuing GED. Overall, 46 percent of California's dropouts did not continue their educations, compared to 32 percent for the rest of the nation.
The big picture is that two years after missing their 2004 graduation ceremonies, 54 percent of California's dropouts were working, 34 percent were neither working nor in school and 12 percent were in schooling of some kind. The working percentage was slightly under that for the rest of the nation while the 34 percent not working or in school was somewhat higher than other states.
"We are losing too many kids," said Russell Rumberger, director of the dropout project. "Their futures are at stake, and without education from either being in school or on the job, opportunities are limited. And it's not just the students who will suffer, but the community."
The full report is available from the California Dropout Project - New Statistical Brief: What Happened to Dropouts From the High School Class of 2004? (PDF)