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A student from Santa Ana's Middle College High School graduation celebrates by decorating her mortarboard with flowers and an inspirational message.

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.

 

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  1. Kim 4 months ago4 months ago

    We still need to ask CA to give us a five year or six year graduation rate and dropout rate. As mentioned in the article, 6.1% of this cohort remained in school. What happened to them one or two years later? Did they add to the graduation rate or to the dropout rate? No one knows….

  2. Eric Premack 4 months ago4 months ago

    Given the absence of anything even approaching a definition of what constitutes a "graduate," it seems absurd to compute a rate when we don't even know what the "it" is. I'm not arguing in favor of creating or mandating a uniform definition, nor for the return of the High School Exit Exam, but simply want to note that the whole idea of computing a graduation rate, especially including mandating a very narrow and particular … Read More

    Given the absence of anything even approaching a definition of what constitutes a “graduate,” it seems absurd to compute a rate when we don’t even know what the “it” is.

    I’m not arguing in favor of creating or mandating a uniform definition, nor for the return of the High School Exit Exam, but simply want to note that the whole idea of computing a graduation rate, especially including mandating a very narrow and particular four-year cohort methodology, is simply ridiculous. Computing such rates beyond the decimal point seems especially silly.

    Perhaps it’s time to focus on other factors (e.g., completion of a college-preparatory or career-preparatory sequence, actual college-going and post-graduation employment rates, etc.) and simply stop computing this silly pseudo-rate.

    Replies

    • Paul 4 months ago4 months ago

      Hogwash! The California Education Code prescribes high school graduation requirements, which school districts may augment but must not reduce. With the addition, over the past few decades, of algebra (as opposed to years of math, generally), of a second year of science, and so on, the legal requirements are stricter now than ever before. In the broader policy landscape, court decisions from the mid-1970s to the present have also compelled the school system to serve English Learners … Read More

      Hogwash!

      The California Education Code prescribes high school graduation requirements, which school districts may augment but must not reduce. With the addition, over the past few decades, of algebra (as opposed to years of math, generally), of a second year of science, and so on, the legal requirements are stricter now than ever before.

      In the broader policy landscape, court decisions from the mid-1970s to the present have also compelled the school system to serve English Learners and students with disabilities. That growing numbers of such students are graduating, and that they are graduating after having received meaningful access to the curriculum, is quite an achievement.

      In math, one of the fields in which I am credentialed and have taught, there was a time when coloring pattern worksheets was a common classroom activity; not so, today.

      • Eric Premack 4 months ago4 months ago

        Yes, Paul, it's true the Ed Code establishes a variety of minimum course requirements for high schools. Beyond the Algebra I requirement, which is arguably 8th or 9th grade-level content, there is virtually no substantive specificity to these "graduation requirements" other than deeming sign language to meet the foreign language requirement and vague references to a smattering of other topics. I'm actually OK with this flexibility, and am very pleased to know that … Read More

        Yes, Paul, it’s true the Ed Code establishes a variety of minimum course requirements for high schools. Beyond the Algebra I requirement, which is arguably 8th or 9th grade-level content, there is virtually no substantive specificity to these “graduation requirements” other than deeming sign language to meet the foreign language requirement and vague references to a smattering of other topics.

        I’m actually OK with this flexibility, and am very pleased to know that coloring worksheets doesn’t cut it in your district, but simply argue that comparing graduation rates, given this wide local discretion and the inflexible 4-year cohort methodology, seems a bit nutty. Other metrics such as actual college-going rates and post-graduation employment, while also imperfect, seem much more important.

        • Paul 4 months ago4 months ago

          Eric, your comments are at best naïve and at worst, patronizing. Coloring as a major classroom activity is no longer acceptable in any California school district these days. This is because, far from the lack of "substantive specificity" (sic.) that you allege, the Education Code prescribes the number of years of high school study in each subject (or in the case of math, years plus one specific course), the number of minutes of instruction per year, … Read More

          Eric, your comments are at best naïve and at worst, patronizing.

          Coloring as a major classroom activity is no longer acceptable in any California school district these days. This is because, far from the lack of “substantive specificity” (sic.) that you allege, the Education Code prescribes the number of years of high school study in each subject (or in the case of math, years plus one specific course), the number of minutes of instruction per year, what can and cannot be considered in determining grades, and so on. Beyond this are legal and regulatory mandates to observe state standards and frameworks (or the Common Core, for math), to use approved instructional materials, and to administer a host of state tests during the high school years.

          Your glib trivialization of what goes on in high school is an insult to California teachers and students.

          Incidentally, I no longer teach, having returned to my former career in technology. Still, the experience of earning credentials and actually teaching in elementary, middle, high, and adult schools gave me firsthand knowledge of the effort behind a present-day California public high school diploma. It is not a meaningless, inconsistent document.