SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today that nearly three out of four California students who started high school in 2006 graduated with their class in 2010, with slightly more than 18 percent dropping out rather than completing their K–12 educations.
The graduation and dropout rates continue to show a significant achievement gap between students who are Hispanic, African American, or English learners and their peers. The 74.4 percent statewide graduation rate and 18.2 percent statewide dropout rate—as well as rates calculated for counties, districts, and schools across California—were for the first time based on four-year cohort information collected about individual students using the state’s California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS).
“For far too long, the discussion about graduation and dropout rates has revolved around how the results were obtained. Now, we can focus on the much more important issue of how to raise the number of graduates and lower the number of dropouts,” Torlakson said.
Beyond the 74.4 percent graduation rate and the 18.2 percent dropout rate, the remaining 7.4 percent of this cohort are students who are neither graduates nor dropouts. Some are still enrolled in school (6.6 percent); others are non-diploma special education students (0.5 percent), and those who passed the General Educational Development Test® (0.4 percent)….
The new cohort rates indicate that there is still a significant gap that persists between Hispanic and African American students and their peers. While there remains a significant graduation rate gap for Hispanic students at 67.7 percent, it is encouraging that about 4,700 more Hispanics graduated in 2010, by far the largest increase by any other subgroup of students. Most troubling are the 59.0 percent graduation rate among African American students and the 56.3 percent graduation rate among English learners.
Consistent with the graduation rates, the dropout rates also illustrate that African American students (30.1 percent) and English learners (31.1 percent) are more likely to drop out than their peers.
“Sadly, the graduation rates of these subgroups of students are too low and their dropout rates are too high,” added Torlakson. “As I mentioned during my presentation of A Blueprint for Great Schools last Tuesday, our job is to provide every child the best chance to succeed—whether they speak English, come from a family in poverty, have health issues, or special needs. The Blueprint offers a vision about how to get there.
The new cohort graduation rate will now serve as a baseline in 2011. In 2012, it will also replace the previous formula to determine graduation rates as required by U.S. law. The previous formula, called the “National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) completer rate” is used to determine whether schools have met their targets for increasing the graduation rate for Adequate Yearly Progress reporting under the federal accountability system. The NCES completer rate was needed until California had four years of longitudinal student data to calculate a cohort rate.
The new cohort graduation rate of 74.4 percent for the class of 2010 should not be compared to any rates from previous years because it is based on a different method of calculation. For example, the NCES completer rate did not account for students who transferred into or out of schools over four years and overestimated the graduation rate. The new cohort rate takes student mobility into account. Also because the new cohort graduation rate is based on a different method of calculation, it is not possible to calculate the exact percentage of change from the graduating class of 2009, though the data clearly indicate an increase in the graduation rate and a decrease in dropout rate.
To download state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates, please visit the CDE DataQuest Web site at DataQuest.
This letter is from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.