In a press conference yesterday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell released the annual report on graduation and dropout rates for 2008-2009 school year. 70.1 percent of public school students in California graduated from high school, up from 68.5 percent last year. The adjusted four-year derived dropout rate for the same school year is 21.7 percent, up from 18.9 percent last year.
When reviewed by subgroup statewide, the graduation and dropout rate data continue to highlight the achievement gap.
“The fact that our schools are operating today on $21 billion less than we had anticipated just three short years ago, I believe are contributing towards the drop out rate,” O’Connell said.
The 2008-09 data represents the third year of calculating student graduation and dropout rates by collecting student-level enrollment and exit data. Although this is the third year of using student-level data, this is the first year this data were collected through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). Right now the California Department of Education (CDE) is collecting the student-level exit data for the class of 2010 that will produce all four years of data necessary to transition from using aggregate rates to more accurate student graduation and dropout rates at the school level. By this spring, California will be able to calculate for the first time these longitudinal rates that are required by federal regulations.
As the data was released, many local school districts expressed concern about the validity of the software used to collect the data. Dublin, CA school district showed a 99.9 percent dropout rate, clearly an error of some kind since it is a mathematical impossibility.
San Diego Unified’s dropout rate appeared to jump to 23.5 percent in the 2008-09 year. That’s more than 2 1/2 times higher than the previous year’s dropout rate of 9.2 percent. The state acknowledged problems with the data for San Diego Unified and a few other districts. It’s unclear why some districts were informed of the dropout reporting guidelines while others were not.
With this new data, we are finally getting closer to telling the truth about how our schools are serving our students, especially students of color who now comprise the ‘new majority’ in our state. While the CDE has been using student-level data to calculate dropout and graduation rates for the last three years, this marks the first year these data were collected through CALPADS. By next year, CALPADS is set to provide the most accurate student-level graduation and dropout rates the state has ever had in place.
O’Connell expressed “deep concerns” that California’s dropout rate increased from the previous year. But he said the increased graduation rates, especially among Hispanic students — up 4.9 percent since last year — offers encouragement that the state is making progress closing the achievement gap between some student groups.
To download state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates, please visit the CDE DataQuest Web site HERE.