California’s high school graduation rate increased to 83.2 percent for the class of 2016, with gains for nearly all ethnic groups though gaps persist, according to statistics released Tuesday.
The overall rise of 0.9 percent above the previous year marked the 7th consecutive annual increase in graduation tallies and is significant progress from the 74.7 percent in 2010 when this form of measurement began, the California Department of Education reported. In what officials described as another sign of progress, the latest dropout rate was 9.8 percent, compared with 10.7 percent in 2015 and 16.6 percent in 2010.
Improved graduation rates were shown by Latinos, Asians, African Americans, whites, Filipinos and Native Americans in 2016, as well by English learners, foster youth and students in migrant education. English learners, African Americans and Latinos had the biggest increases, of 2.7 percent, 1.8 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. Pacific Islanders showed a slight decline.
However, while some ethnic disparities narrowed, significant achievement gaps persisted among the cohort of 489,036 students who started high school in 2012-13. In some cases, the difference was as large as 20 percentage points. Filipinos and Asians, at 93.6 percent and 93.4 percent, had the highest four-year graduation rates; whites achieved 88.1 percent; Pacific Islanders, 81.9; Latinos, 80.0; Native Americans, 73.8; and African Americans, 72.6.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson described the overall improvements as “great news for our students and families.” In a statement released by his office, Torlakson attributed the gains to increased education spending that helped reduce class sizes, restored classes in the arts and science, and expanded career-technical programs. “The increasing rates show that the positive changes in California schools are taking us in the right direction. These changes, which I call the California Way, include teaching more rigorous and relevant academic standards, which provides more local control over spending and more resources to those with the greatest needs,” his statement said.
But, Torlakson noted that more work is needed to boost all graduation rates and to narrow the achievement gaps, particularly for Latinos and African Americans. “We still have a long way to go and need help from everyone – teachers, parents, administrators and community members – to keep our momentum alive so we can keep improving,” Torlakson said.
Last year, officials said that the suspension of the California High School Exit Exam, a previous graduation requirement since 2004, probably contributed to a rise in graduations. The class of 2016 did not have to take the test either, a policy that will remain in place at least through 2018.
Some students are considered neither graduates nor dropouts because they continue working toward their high school degrees beyond the traditional four years. Those students comprised 6.1 percent of the students who began in 2012-13.
English learners saw a 72.1 percent graduation rate, up 2.7 points from the year before, while foster youth rose 1.1 points to 50.8 percent and students in migrant education showed 81.6 percent, up 0.9 points.
Since 2010, the state has used the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data system, or CalPADS, to track students. Before then, it used a different system.
Families can use the state Department of Educations DataQuest to view rates for districts, counties and schools.