Press Release

OAKLAND, CA (December 8, 2010) The Education Trust—West issued the following statement regarding the latest data on dropout and graduation rates:

The latest education data collected for the first time through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) and released yesterday by the California Department of Education (CDE) reveals that the dropout rate remains at crisis levels for the state’s Latino and African-American students.

According to the data, students of color, primarily Latino and African-American students, remain sharply overrepresented as a share of the state’s dropouts in 2008-09.  Latino students, for example, who now equal half of California’s public school students, comprised 57 percent of all dropouts.  Meanwhile, African-American students, who represent 7 percent of public school students, comprised 14 percent of dropouts.   

Our new state leaders should be appalled by these numbers.  We call on them to make a public commitment to ending this crisis once and for all by closing the opportunity and achievement gaps that are the cause of the dropout crisis.

With this new data, we are finally getting closer to telling the truth about how our schools are serving our students, especially students of color who now comprise the ‘new majority’ in our state. For years, we have not had an accurate picture of the full extent of the drop-out crisis in our state.

While the CDE has been using student-level data to calculate dropout and graduation rates for the last three years, this marks the first year these data were collected through CALPADS.  By next year, CALPADS is set to provide the most accurate student-level graduation and dropout rates the state has ever had in place.

Without a statewide system, it is impossible to track students from one district to another or effectively target student recovery efforts.  Without the real facts, it is impossible to hold leaders accountable for poor results.

In school districts around the state, 9th grade classes are invariably larger than 12th grade classes, sometimes three or four times as large. District and state leaders often argue students have left their districts and likely enrolled in another high school. This excuse allows local education leaders to often downplay the severity of the drop in enrollment from 9thto 12th grade.

To better illustrate the point, look at four randomly selected districts across the state.  In 2006-07, McClatchy High School in Sacramento City Unified had 656 freshmen.  In 2009-10, four years later, there were only 488 seniors. At Skyline High School in Oakland Unified, there were 625 students enrolled in 9th grade in 2006-07.  In 2009-10, there were only 426 enrolled in 12th grade.  Two of the starkest examples are Sunnyside High School in Fresno Unified and Fremont High School in Los Angeles Unified.  In 2006-07, Sunnyside High School had 1,139 9th graders.  In 2009-10, the number of 12th graders stood at 673.  At Fremont High School, the number went from 1,781 students enrolled in 9th grade in 2006-07 to 470 enrolled in 12th grade in 2009-10.

Without a statewide education data system, we will never know the truth about the full extent of dropout crisis in our state. We will never be able to identify the sources of the dropout crisis in our school districts. We will forever allow districts to pass the buck on responsibility for meeting the educational needs of our highest-need and most vulnerable students without accurate information.

For this reason alone, the veto of CALPADS funding by the Governor was short-sighted and counter-productive. Quite fundamentally, without accurate data to identify the extent and the source of a problem, our efforts to find solutions cannot be measured and our limited education resources cannot be directed where they are most needed. CALPADS moves us in the direction of implementing the statewide data system that will provide policymakers, educators, and communities in every school district with the timely, meaningful, actionable data that they need to fix achievement and opportunity gaps that undermine the dreams of so many  of California’s students.


# # #

 About The Education Trust—West

The Education Trust—West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, kindergarten through college, and to forever close the achievement gaps separating low-income students and students of color from other youth. Our basic tenet is this— All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels.