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California High School Graduation Rates Dip 1.1 Percent Under New Methodology

August 7, 2018

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced California’s high school graduation rates on July 26 under a new methodology that was adopted in response to a federal audit.

As part of this new methodology, three significant changes were implemented for calculating 2017 high school graduation rates: (1) Students who receive an adult education high school diploma are no longer considered regular high school graduates, and (2) students who pass the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) are no longer considered regular high school graduates, and (3) students who transfer to adult education programs or a community college will remain in the denominator for the cohort calculation.

Using this new methodology, which reduces the number of students counted as graduates, 82.7 percent of California students who started high school as ninth graders in 2013-14 graduated on-time four years later in 2017. Under the old methodology, the statewide graduation rate was 83.8 percent in 2016.

Overall, the number of graduates increased from 2016 by over 900 for a total of 408,124 students. In addition, the number of students who dropped out in 2017 decreased by over 2,200 compared to last year.

In order to have the most recent data available for accountability, CDE has expedited the timeline for producing graduation rates for this year. Therefore, these new graduation rates for 2017 will be compared to the graduation rates for 2018 which will be released publicly in December, in time to be included in the Fall 2018 Dashboard.

One useful new feature in the updated graduation report is that it shows the number of students who have met all the (a-g) requirements for admission to a University of California (UC)/California State University (CSU). In California’s high school graduating class for 2017, one out of two graduates, nearly 50 percent, met UC/CSU requirements for admission.

“California continues to make excellent progress in education,” said Torlakson. “The percentage of our graduates eligible for the University of California and the California State University is soaring. In addition, more of our students are passing Advanced Placement ® exams and the number demonstrating proficiency in a foreign language has quadrupled since 2011.”

Since 2007, there has been more than a 30 percent increase in high school graduates eligible for UC and more than a 53 percent increase in CSU eligibility. In addition, there has been a significant upward trend in graduation rates. Using the old method of calculating rates, they moved from 74.4 percent for the class of 2010 to 83.8 percent for the class of 2016.

In addition, another useful new feature in the updated graduation report is that it shows the number of high school graduates earning a State Seal of Biliteracy, which recognizes graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing one or more languages in addition to English. In 2017, 44,594 graduates earned the State Seal of Biliteracy.

Torlakson, through his Global California 2030 initiative, has called for vastly expanding teaching and learning of world languages and seeks to more than triple the number of students who receive the State Seal of Biliteracy by 2030.

But the data also reveals a significant challenge. As in previous years, disparities in graduation rates continue. Torlakson said much work needs to be done in narrowing what he calls the “pernicious, persistent” achievement gap between Asian and white students and Latino and African American students.

“We have a long way to go and need help from everyone-teachers, parents, administrators and community members-to narrow these gaps,” he said. English learners continue to need support to improve their graduation rates. In addition to the new graduation rate calculation methodology, CDE made other improvements to more accurately identify students who were English learners during high school. These improvements removed some students from the English learner subgroup who had reclassified as fluent English proficient just prior to the beginning of high school. This resulted in a decrease of the graduation counts for English learners.

The updated reporting allows users to utilize new filtering options also available in the Enrollment, Discipline, and Chronic Absenteeism reports in DataQuest. In alignment with the California School Dashboard, charter schools are removed from the school district reports by default but can be added to the school district totals by using the filter option.

For the class of 2017, the graduation rate for California charter schools, excluding alternative schools, is 82 percent. For comparison, non-charter schools, excluding alternative schools, showed a graduating rate of 91.5 percent. Schools identified as "alternative" include, but are not limited to, continuation, juvenile court, county-run special education schools, alternative schools of choice, and serve high risk students who are already at the greatest risk of dropping out, compared with the broader population at traditional high schools.

To view state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates, visit the California Department of Education's DataQuest web page. Downloadable data files are available on the California Department of Education Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate and Outcome Data web page.

Since the prior graduation rates use a different methodology, the 2017 graduation rates should not be compared to prior years. The CDE will use the new methodology for the 2018 California School Dashboard to calculate performance levels (colors), using the 2017 graduation rates for change, and 2018 graduation rates for status.

Source: California Department of Education



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