Today’s release by the California Department of Education (CDE) of the state’s graduation and dropout rates has good news and bad news. The bad news is clear: The data show that California students, particularly low-income students, students of color, and other high-need populations, graduate from high school at alarmingly low rates. The good news is that for the first time, the graduation and dropout rates are accurate, transparent, and are no longer estimates, thanks to the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS.
This year’s data tell us even more about student performance. The data show that three out of four (74%) of our state’s students are graduating from high school in four years, and that 18% drop out. Sadly, the news is far worse for the state’s African-American and Latino students, who graduate from high school at abysmally low rates—59% and 68%, respectively. Nearly one out of three (30%) African-American students and nearly one quarter (23%) of Latino students drop out. We also now know that 68% of low-income students, 57% of students with disabilities, and 56% of English learner students graduate in four years.
Given that students of color currently represent the majority of students in California and will overwhelmingly comprise our future workforce, the gaps in high school success between these students and their peers should raise serious concerns for community members, educators, and policymakers. Education outcomes for students of color, students with disabilities, low-income students, and English learners, whose needs and potential are often overlooked, are particularly disturbing when compared with the graduation rates of their more advantaged peers. For example, California’s white students graduate at a rate of 83% and Asian students at a rate of 89%. These students’ dropout rates stand at 12% and 8%, respectively.
“Before we had longitudinal data, state leaders based these numbers on a ‘best guess’ calculation,” said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust—West, a statewide education advocacy organization. “With CALPADS now up and running, California’s leaders can no longer ‘pass the buck’ for the state’s high dropout rate by questioning the accuracy of the data. We need them to immediately enact policy reforms that will dramatically improve graduation rates for all students.”
California GEAR UP serves the populations of students most in need and identified as underperforming with these data, and our numbers are promising. California GEAR UP Students showed:
- Significant increases in the proportion of students scoring Proficient or Advanced on the California Standards Test in 8th Grade Algebra, Geometry, English/Language Arts, Science, and History (55%, 28%, 49%, 69%, and 93% respectively).
- The proportion of students at GEAR UP schools scoring Proficient or Advanced on the Adequate Yearly Progress measure in mathematics increased by 27 percent; the statewide increase during that time was 15 percent.
- Significant increases in the proportion of cohort students in the 11th grade scoring Proficient or Advanced on the California Standards Test in English/Language Arts, Algebra 2, Geometry, and Chemistry above the previous class of eleventh graders (16.5%, 100%, 12.5%, and 22.6% respectively)
- Valley High School in Elk Grove, CA, a California GEAR UP school, graduated 94% of their senior class (the GEAR UP cohort) and received their diplomas.
More information on the Impact of California GEAR UP can be found on our website HERE.
How are you addressing the needs of students identified in this article?