State’s high school graduation rate improves, but dropouts grow too

After months of delay, the state released 2008-09 graduation data Tuesday showing some improvement in overall high school graduates but also increases in the number of dropouts.

The report was also noteworthy because it was the first time that the data was collected though the much maligned California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System. Plagued by software and management problems over the past year, CalPADS had its oversight funding vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October and state schools chief Jack O'Connell has been on a campaign to get the money restored since.

I am glad to see the graduation rate inch up, but remain deeply concerned that the dropout rate is also increasing slightly," said O'Connell in a statement. "We now have a data system that allows us to track students more accurately and have honest conversations about how to improve graduation rates and reduce dropouts among all subgroups of students. Next year we will transition totally to the use of student-level longitudinal data and will be able to calculate the most accurate graduation and dropout rates possible."

Specifically, the data showed that 70.1 percent of public high school students graduated in 2008-09, an improvement from 68.5 percent the year before.

The graduation rate among Hispanic students was 59 percent; among African-Americans it was 59.6 percent. The dropout rate among Hispanics was 26.9 percent and among African-Americans it was 36.9 percent.

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