Torlakson Reports Climb in Graduation Rates for California

SACRAMENTO—High school graduation rates are up across California and dropout numbers are down, state education officials said Wednesday. The biggest gains being made among English learners and the state’s largest minority groups, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

The new numbers represent the most accurate picture of how many state students are making it through school to graduation day. More than three quarters, or 76.3 percent, of students who started high school in 2007 graduated with their class in 2011. That is up 1.5 percentage points from the 2010 graduation rate. Larger gains were seen among Hispanic and African American students at 2.2 and 2.3 percentage points respectively, with the biggest increase being among English learners at 3.8 percentage points. The graduation rate for socioeconomically disadvantaged students climbed nearly 2 percentage points, from 68.1 to 70 percent.

          “Every graduate represents a success story in one of the most effective job and anti-poverty programs ever conceived, our public schools,” Torlakson said. “These numbers are a testament to the hard work of teachers and administrators, of parents and, most of all, of the students themselves. While they are a great illustration of all that is going right in California schools, they should also remind us that schools need our support to continue to improve so that every student graduates prepared for college, a career, and to contribute to our state’s future.”

Beyond the 76.3 percent graduation rate and the 14.4 percent dropout rate, the remaining 9.3 percent are students who are neither graduates nor dropouts. Some are still enrolled in school (8.6 percent). Others are non-diploma special education students (0.4 percent), and some elected to pass a high school equivalency exam.

Graduation and dropout rates for counties, districts, and schools across California were calculated based on four-year cohort—referring to this particular group of students—information using the state’s California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). This is the second time this four-year cohort information was collected, making this the first time that it can be compared year to year. With two years of data, the cohort rates will now be used to determine whether schools have met their targets for increasing the graduation rate for the Adequate Yearly Progress reporting under the federal school accountability system. The 2009-10 rates were also adjusted as a part of this data release (marked “A” in the tables below) to include only those students who were first-time ninth graders in the 2006-07 school year.

The new cohort dropout rate is calculated for high school students, grades nine through twelve. However, there are also significant numbers of students who drop out of school during the middle school years. Starting with the 2009-10 school year, the state began tracking individual students as they moved through the education system, identifying those who disappeared from schools and forcing districts to figure out where they were.

“Our research shows that chronic absence from school, even as early as kindergarten, is a strong indicator of whether a child will drop out of school later,” Torlakson said. “The dropout rate shows there’s still much work to be done, particularly to address the needs of disadvantaged and minority students. We must build on our work with parents and communities in the earliest years to pave the way for kids to succeed in school.”

CALPADS has made great strides since an independent oversight consultant was critical of the initial release of the system in 2009. In its latest report, the same independent oversight consultant concluded, “The CALPADS project is presently in the healthiest state of its history.”

To view and download state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates, please visit the CDE DataQuest Web site at DataQuest. Reporters are encouraged to use caution when comparing education rates among individual schools and districts; some, such as 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.

Please share with us your graduation success stories.

California Department of Education Releases School Ranks

June 14, 2012—The California Department of Education (CDE) today has made available the data for the School Ranks for both statewide and similar schools, the 2011 Base Academic Performance Index (API), and Growth Targets on the CDE API Reports Web page.  (To find the information in one central location, go to the API Reports Web page and click on the County Reports link and submit your county. All the districts with their schools will be available on that one page.)

 A school’s Base API score plus its growth target becomes that school’s goal for its next Growth API score, which will be released in September. The release of the Base API signals the beginning of the 2011-12 reporting cycle. The Base API is calculated using the test results of the previous year while the Growth API is calculated using the test results of the current year.

Ten percent of California’s elementary schools, for example, earn a statewide ranking of 10, meaning they had higher API scores than 90 percent of the state’s elementary schools. The same number of schools earn a 1, meaning their scores were in the bottom 10 percent.

Why so late? State education department data analysts had extra work to do this year in adjusting the API scores, said Jenny Singh, administrator of academic accountability for the department. A new state regulation defines when a student is “continuously enrolled” in a public school — and therefore, when their scores should be counted in that school’s results. Another establishes what to do with the scores of students who transfer, midyear, to alternative schools.

Before, local districts made those determinations themselves, Singh said. Now, it will be consistent from district to district. The school ranks compare each school to all other schools of the same type (elementary, middle or high school) as well as to 100 schools with similar opportunities and challenges. To determine which schools are similar, the state looks at factors such as parent education levels, low-income families, race and ethnicity, English learners and average class sizes.

The 2011 Base API report will be posted on the California Department of Education’s website:

Preparing for National GEAR UP Week 2012: Sept 10-14

September 10-14, 2012  is  National GEAR UP Week, an event highlighting the positive impact that GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), has had on students, families, schools, and communities since Congress authorized the program thirteen years ago. GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

GEAR UP programs, schools, families, and partners across the country will celebrate throughout the week of September 10-14.

How to Celebrate National GEAR UP Day:

1)  Create a “GEAR UP Dreams Wall” by covering the wall of a classroom, hallway, or gym with butcher paper, place a large GEAR UP logo in the center with “Our GEAR UP Dreams” underneath, and have students write their academic, professional, and personal goals on the wall. Take a picture of the students by their dreams and send a few to your legislators, school officials, local newspaper and the California GEAR UP blog to be posted.

2) Host a lunchtime celebration at your school and invite families, your local school district representatives, Members of Congress, and GEAR UP personnel.

3)  Start a letter writing campaign to your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative. Have your students thank the elected officials for supporting GEAR UP. Encourage parents and teachers to discuss the importance of GEAR UP and how it has helped students.

4)    Create a never-ending “College Access Chain” featuring the names of students from your site who have graduated from or are currently enrolled in a college program ! Take pictures of this huge chain created from paper links as it wraps around your school and send those pictures to all GEAR UP partners as a thank you for their support.

5)   Host a “Community Success Stories Breakfast” with a local service club or Chamber of Commerce. Invite your GEAR UP students, parents and partners to share the success stories of GEAR UP students.

6)  Create an over-sized thank you card to send to your U.S. and California Senators and Representatives. With the California GEAR UP logo in the middle, have students, staff, and parents sign the card with their thanks, take a picture, and deliver to your elected official’s or school District Office.

7)   Have all the teachers and staff wear college apparel on National GEAR UP Day and have a discussion in class about goal setting, college opportunity, and career dreams.

We will be announcing events and celebrations across the state as they are announced. Contact us if you would like to participate or will be hosting your own National GEAR UP Week celebration.