California’s high school graduation rate is continuing to rise, especially among African American and Hispanic students, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.
The overall four-year graduation rate reached 78.5 percent for the class of 2012, up from 77.1 percent the previous year. Hispanic students boosted their graduation rate by 1.8 percentage points to 73.2 percent. African American students had a 65.7 percent graduation rate which, while still the lowest for any ethnic or racial group, represents an increase of 2.9 percent over a year.
“While I am glad to announce that we are moving in the right direction, the fact remains that we must keep moving to ensure that every California student graduates ready to succeed in the world they will find outside our classrooms,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson during a telephone call with reporters. He said adequate funding is critical to that goal as are initiatives to boost career technical education, reduce chronic absenteeism and provide high quality preschool for children living in poverty and children who are English learners.
Pamela Short Powell, president of the California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators, agreed that the graduation trend is positive, but expressed concern that “African American young people are lagging behind their peers.” She said based on the current rates, the state and educators will have to double their efforts to reach the national goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.
Along with the increase in graduation rates comes a decrease in dropout rates from 14.7 percent for the class of 2011 to 13.2 percent for the class of 2012. The dropout rate among African American students fell by more than 3 percent to 22.2 percent, while Hispanic students cut their dropout rate to 16.2 percent.
This is the third consecutive year that California has released precise graduation and dropout rates using the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS, a statewide data system that assigns unique student identifiers to every public school student. However, the data does not include students who earn high school equivalency degrees, known as GEDs, special education students in non-diploma programs or students who take five or six years to graduate from high school. About 40,000 students fell into those categories last year.