August 29, 2008

Graduation Rates in for California Students

By Linh Tat

Nearly 68 percent of California's high school students received a diploma during the 2006-07 academic year, according to a report released this week by the state Department of Education.

That figure is based on the state's own method for calculating graduation rates. The state Department of Education also released a second figure for national reporting, using a formula prescribed under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which inflates the graduation rate of California students to 79.5 percent.

Based on the federal formula, students in Alameda County and all three Tri-City school districts graduated at higher rates that year than did their peers statewide.

Eighty-four percent of students in the county graduated, as did 94.2 percent in Fremont, 85.2 percent in Newark and 84 percent in the New Haven school district.

Although the state says its formula provides a more accurate depiction of the number of students in California who earned diplomas, graduation rates for individual schools and districts were calculated using the federal formula only. Some local agencies have high student mobility, or they experience significant spikes and declines in enrollment, so calculating the graduation rate using the state formula would have rendered the results invalid, education officials said.

Two years ago, the state began issuing unique identification numbers to each student to track if they transferred between public schools in California, moved out of state, completed a general- education program elsewhere or dropped out.

The state's high school dropout report, which came out earlier this month, also was based on the new tracking system.

"We are now able to use individual student-level data to more accurately report how many students graduate, how many drop out before graduating, and why these students leave school," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said in a statement.

"Educators ... must use this powerful new information to prevent students from dropping out in the first place and ensure more students leave high school with a diploma in hand," he continued.

Whether using the state or federal formula, the latest graduation rates took into account factors that were different from previous years, so one can't do an apple-to-apple comparison of graduation rates over time.

Still, in reviewing the last two year's scores, the percentage dropped for students who graduated from Fremont Unified overall, as well as at nearly every high school.

The Newark and New Haven school districts, meanwhile, saw their graduation rates rise this year, both in the overall district score and the individual campus scores for traditional four-year high schools.

Chris Hobbs, executive director of technology in New Haven, said the district has had a strong history of reporting accurate data, so he's not surprised that New Haven's scores did not drop under the new calculating system, as some believe would happen to many districts.

It's also plausible, he said, that the improved graduation rate is not just the result of a different calculation method. "Knowing the focus we have on instruction, it would not shock me that we are (in fact) doing a better job in terms of graduating students," he said.

Reach Linh Tat at 510-353-7010 or [email protected] Read her blog postings at A GLANCE

Below are graduation rates, in percentages, for the class of 2007, based on a formula used under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.-- California 79.5-- Alameda County 84-- Fremont Unified School District 94.2

n American High 95.3

n Irvington High 96.6

n Kennedy High 93.8

n Mission San Jose High 99.1

n Washington High 92.6-- New Haven Unified School District 84

n James Logan High 89.7-- Newark Unified School District 85.2

n Newark Memorial High 92.2

Originally published by Linh Tat, The Argus.

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