California Dropout Rates, Graduation Rates Increase

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.

From Ed Trust West blog post

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.

Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Salutes State’s Educators

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell expressed his deep appreciation for the state’s teachers this week in conjunction with California Day of the Teacher on Wednesday, May 12. O’Connell’s office released this statement for the celebratory day:

“The Day of the Teacher is an opportunity to remember and thank those who taught us to read and write, to appreciate the arts and sciences – and encouraged us to try again and again when we struggled,” O’Connell said. “Teachers are mentors and role models who helped shape the people we’ve become and are helping our six million students meet their full potential.

“It is a tough time to be a teacher. The state budget crisis is forcing many districts to issue pink slips to thousands of teachers. Those that remain are making do with fewer supplies and resources yet more students in their classrooms. Many are being asked to take furlough days and pay cuts.

“We must continue the fight to protect education funding. We cannot afford to shortchange our students by depriving them of the most valuable resources we have to offer: our teachers who work on a daily basis to prepare our children and young adults for the challenges of the 21st century. On this Day of the Teacher, let us resolve to give our teachers, our schools, and our students the thanks and the support they deserve.”

Here are Top Ten Ways to Honor Teachers:

1.    Send your children to school well rested and ready to learn.

2.    Help your children with their homework at night and check to ensure all assignments are completed.

3.    Volunteer your time.

4.    Parent involvement in your children’s school is vital to the success of your own children as well as the success of the entire school.

5.    Organize donations for classroom supplies. On average, teachers spend $400 of their own money each year on their students. Encourage teachers to develop a wish list for classroom supplies and help organize donations.

6.    Donate new or nearly new books to the school library. Determine what is needed to improve the library and organize contributions to fill that need.

7.    Send a thank you note to a teacher who has made a difference in the life of your child.

8.    Have a party or reception at your children’s school to honor the teachers.

9.    Report to the principal what a great job your child’s teacher is doing.

10. Just remember to thank them for all they do.

It’s important to reflect on the state of education in California, as teachers have been and will continue to remain the bedrock of academic excellence for ALL our students.

How are you celebrating?

O’Connell Announces LEA’s will Partner for Race to the Top

State Schools Chief O’Connell and Secretary of
Education Thomas Announce Hundreds of Local Educational
Agencies Intend to Participate in Race to the Top

There is tremendous momentum in California to make the systemic changes to improve our public education system called for in the Race to the Top, OConnell said. I am very pleased that more than half of the public school students in our state will get the direct benefit of our reform work by attending a school that is participating in Race to the Top.”

The competitive grant program is designed to encourage and reward states and LEAs that are creating the conditions for education innovation and reform with a specific focus in four core areas:

  • Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
  • Recruiting, developing, retaining, and rewarding effective teachers and principals;
  • Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices; and
  • Turning around the lowest-performing schools.

The Race to the Top grant presents a significant opportunity for statewide engagement in fundamental reforms needed to accelerate growth in student achievement.  As a statewide program, our mission statement for “Academic Excellence and College Access for ALL Students” is clearly aligned with the goals of this grant. California GEAR UP is pleased to join with the many citizens and organizations focused on providing the opportunity for ALL children to reach their potential.

For more information on this partnership and to read the CDE press release, go here.

Let us know if you are involved in the partnership seeking these funds, we would like to hear from you.

National GEAR UP Day Press Conference at Valley High School

Valley High School in Elk Grove Unified School District in Sacramento hosted a press conference and a wide array of activities for honored guests on September 18, 2009 in celebration of 10 years of California GEAR UP. Highlights of the day included visits to the GEAR UP Parent Center, a panel of GEAR UP Leadership Skills Initiative Students, and a press conference featuring State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, a student speaker from the Leadership Skills Initiative (LSI), and a parent volunteer. An amazing turnout of education professionals, state political figures, and national and international education organizations.

Guest list included: Valley High School Staff; EGUSD Superintendent Dr. Steven M. Ladd; Shelley Davis, Director of California GEAR UP; Penny Edgert Coordinator California Education Round Table (ICC); Assembly Member Alyson Huber; EGUSD Board Members Chet Madison, Sr. and Jeanette Amavisca; R.E. Graswich, Special Assistant to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson; Peter Stephens, Executive Vice-President of National Council for Community and Education Partnerships – GEAR UP DC;  Diana Fuentes-Michel, Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission; Penni Hansen, California Department of Education; Whitney Yamamura, Vice-President of Instruction and Student Learning; Bill DelBonta Principal, Jackman MS; Ernest Black, College Board; Deborah Muramoto, California Capital SBDC; Michelle Dyke; Victoria Harris, Field Rep for Senator Darrell Steinberg; UC Davis; Zeny Agullana, Scholarshare; Karen Humphrey, California Postsecondary Education Commission.








ACT Sponsors National GEAR UP Day Event

ACT and California GEAR UP partner together for National GEAR UP Day at Valley High School in Sacramento. The event “Valley High School: Beating the Odds” will take place on Friday, September 18th at the high school located in the Elk Grove Unified School District of Sacramento. Press conference at 8:00 will feature California Superintendent of Public instruction Jack O’Connell as well as family and student speakers from Valley High School.

California GEAR UP announces statewide events


Thursday, September 17 at 1:00pm Everett and Horace Mann Middle Schools in San Francisco will host a collaborative “Unity University” higher education event for students at Everett Middle School. This event will include proclamations from Mayor Gavin Newsom as well as breakout activities for students engaging them in the college going culture of their school. 


Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell will join California GEAR UP on September 18, 2009 from 8am-10am Valley High School, Elk Grove School District, Sacramento, CA.  GEAR UP schools across California will also host celebrations.   Open media and education professionals invitation. 

If you have any questions about these events, please contact California GEAR UP Communications Director: